Schools Tackle Mental Health
Facing an unprecedented mental health crisis, schools are taking unprecedented action.
The long trend
As many as 60% of young people are reporting that they’re in mental distress – a contemporary insight into a crisis that’s been getting worse since at least the 1950s.2 The reasons why are complex and multifaceted, but a recent study from MIT points to academic pressure as the most common cause of mental health problems.3 This aligns with new data showing association between in-person school time and youth suicide.4 The implication is that student wellbeing is at an all-time low, in a time when 74% of parents are concerned their school isn’t doing enough to support student mental health.4
of young people are in mental distress
of parents are concerned their school isn’t doing enough to support mental health
of mental health problems are established in people by the age of 24
Support in schools
To help address the ongoing crisis, the Biden administration recently announced a goal to double the number of school-based mental health professionals. To do so, the administration is awarding $1 billion in funds over the next 5 years for services in schools.5
It’s important to note that both student wellbeing and academic performance are at stake here. Anxiety and depression, among other mental health disorders, have been shown to impair a student’s ability to focus, learn, and succeed.
Michael Horn, expert on the future of education, says that it’s vital that schools are equipped to provide the necessary support for students so that they can thrive academically and in the future. That doesn’t mean that schools have to directly provide this support themselves, but that they are intentionally partnering with providers who can. “Outsourcing to those with expertise allows schools to better utilize their resources to provide high-quality learning experiences.”
Schools will play an increasingly critical role in supporting the mental health needs of the younger population.
“Although schools might not see their ‘core competency’ as supporting students’ mental health, in many cases for their students to thrive academically, they’ll need to make sure that students’ mental health is in good shape. That doesn't mean that they have to directly provide this support themselves, of course, but instead that they are intentionally partnering with providers who can.”Michael HornExpert on the future of education
Even before the pandemic, schools were facing a surge in demand for care that far outpaced capacity, and it’s becoming clear that the traditional counseling-centered model is ill-equipped to solve the scale of the problem. For example, schools in Hawaii had 31 vacant counselor positions and 20 vacant psychologist roles at the start of this year.
Faced with shortages in mental health professionals, some schools are instead training educators to spot signs that a student is in distress – an increasingly common practice – and paying private companies to provide mental health services.6 This demand will lead to more services entering the space to help promote mental health in schools and create a positive learning environment that supports both the academic and social-emotional development of students.
We’re starting to see more digital services like Maro (who can provide mental health diagnostics in schools), LittleOtter, and Headspace targeting students and young people; we’ll also see more tailored content and coaching for students and educators.