Three School Districts Tackle Post-pandemic Student Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic affected numerous aspects of everyday life, including education and mental health. For students worldwide, education shifted from an in-person experience at school to a virtual challenge at home. This shift affected not only the learning process but personal mental health as well. As schools attempt to adapt to the rise in mental health concerns, school districts and board members are considering boosting mental health services to support students during this critical time.
According to national surveys, 80 percent of students staying at home experienced problems focusing on schoolwork. Parents also confirmed that staying home and social isolation harmed their children’s mental health during the pandemic.
The pandemic’s negative psychological impact is not the biggest obstacle facing families. Instead, the lack of mental health support services for students is the largest challenge. More than 50 percent of surveyed students reported that they don’t know where they could get mental health support. Research also shows that depression, anxiety, and exposure to violence have increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. This spike in mental health problems warrants a similar boost in mental health services in educational institutions.
Across three different states — Ohio, Florida, and Montana — school districts attempt to address this need for mental health student support. Ohio is dedicating state funds to improve mental health services in schools. For example, in early 2020, the state’s Liberty-Benton School District brought licensed clinical counselor Tracy Rath onboard to work with the district guidance counselors.
Tracy Rath provides individual counseling sessions and group interventions. Her work prioritizes the psychological needs of students who are facing uncertainty and change. She also works with parents to help them understand and manage their children’s mental health.
In Florida’s Miami-Dade School District, board members approved a $13 million mental health initiative. The plan includes hiring 20 new mental health coordinators and 100 part-time mental health professionals. Although the district already relies on 70 full-time counselors, their services are not enough to cover all 392 district schools. Part-time practitioners will provide supplemental services along with the full-time staff members to address the support gap.
Unfortunately, other states are encountering financial complications when it comes to maintaining mental health services. For example, in Montana, the Belgrade School District halts its Comprehensive School and Community Treatment (CSCT) services due to state funding issues. The (CSCT) program connects students with mental health needs to professional practitioners from mental health centers. Depending on the student’s preference, CSCT professionals can choose to conduct their counseling sessions at school, the student’s home, or community centers. This flexibility is a major advantage of the CSCT program.
The CSCT program supports students in need and helps parents who cannot afford private therapists. Working parents may also not have the means to personally take their children to counselors during work hours, making in-school services the most suitable option for many families. The Belgrade School District is working on a new agreement to resume CSCT services, but parents are updated about the situation.