7 in 10 public schools report increase in children seeking mental health services

Seven out of 10 public schools say they have seen an increase in children seeking mental health services since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a study from an independent government agency has revealed.

The Institute of Education Sciences found requests increased across all demographics accounting for region, school size and level and percentages of minority students and students in poverty. A slight majority of public schools surveyed reported that they moderately or strongly agree they can effectively provide mental health services to their students. 

The institute, which is under the purview of the Education Department, launched the study, called the School Pulse Panel, to investigate the impact of the pandemic on a sample of elementary, middle, high and combined schools throughout the country. The researchers are conducting their study from January to June and are tracking schools’ teaching formats and health policies throughout the study’s entirety. They are additionally probing different topics related to the pandemic’s impact on education each month. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last month that more than 40 percent of teenagers reported being “persistently sad” amid the pandemic.

In April’s evaluation of mental health and well-being, the study found 85 percent of the schools have encouraged their staff to address students’ emotional and mental well-being and 56 percent have offered assistance to teachers on helping students improve their mental health. 

More than 40 percent have created or expanded a mental health program for students or hired new staff to specifically focus on students’ well-being. 

While a 56 percent majority of public schools said they at least moderately agree that they can effectively support students who need mental health assistance, about a third said they at least moderately disagree. 

Schools cited inadequate access to licensed professionals and limited staff coverage of caseloads as factors that limit their abilities to provide mental health services. 

Researchers conducted the survey April 12-25 from about 830 public schools.

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