Washington, D.C. — Even pre-pandemic, student mental health was an alarming issue, with rising levels of suicide, anxiety, and depression among young people. The COVID-19 pandemic further amplified the dire need for student mental health to be addressed on a systemic level. A new Center for American Progress issue brief details the current state of student mental health in the United States and offers state recommendations that best support schools, students, and their families.
The five key recommendations include:
- Establishing a statewide student mental health task force: Task forces have the unique capability of pooling experts from various fields to examine issues and discuss solutions. They give states the opportunity to properly analyze the current state of student mental health through targeted data collection and provide expert evidence-based recommendations.
- Organizing state-level interagency coordination: The student mental health crisis stretches across multiple areas of expertise and therefore demands cross-agency collaboration. State governments need to establish systems that ensure collaboration between their state department of health and human services and their state department of education in order to be most effective.
- Expanding access to Medicaid-covered school-based mental health services: These services include access to family, group, and individual therapy, as well as prevention and evaluation services and case management. Allowing these services to be billed to Medicaid prior to a formal diagnosis will enable children to access early help and eliminates unnecessary barriers to seeking mental health services.
- Increasing access to school-based mental health providers: With children spending most of their waking hours in schools, bringing care directly to them and hiring staff trained to assess students and catch early signs of struggle can greatly reduce mental health concerns.
- Investing in programs that improve school culture: These may include training school staff in trauma-informed practices, building mental health into curricula, and administering school climate surveys to detect school policies and practices that threaten student mental well-being.
“At a time when students need more support than ever, state governments must invest in programs that will support schools, students, and families,” said Paige Shoemaker DeMio, policy analyst for K-12 Education at CAP and author of the brief. “These investments can create lasting impacts that not only address student mental health, but also reduce violence in schools, increase student academic achievement, and create better working environments for school staff.”
Read the issue brief: “5 Ways State Governments Can Support Student Mental Health” by Paige Shoemaker DeMio
For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at firstname.lastname@example.org.