Poll finds youth mental health crisis is not getting better

Data: Effective School Solutions via John Zogby Strategies; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Almost every school administrator believes the mental health challenges their students face are moderate to severe, with more than half saying conditions either worsened or haven’t improved in the last year.

Driving the news: The findings came from a survey released Wednesday by Effective School Solutions — which provides mental health services for schools — that polled 200 administrators and 1,000 parents with children in K-12.

What it found: Parents are less confident in their school’s ability to deal with students’ mental health issues than the administrators, yet most say schools should play a role in helping their kids.

  • Only 40% of administrators said they had a high level of confidence in their ability to deal with the mental health crisis in their schools, compared to 16% of parents.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 administrators reported not being confident at all compared to nearly a third of parents.
  • Top concerns for both parents and administrators were identifying needs and having enough staff to support students.

What they’re saying: “This report only reinforces what we see every day around the challenges and what is needed to help our students and staff,” said Carrie Martin, director of special education and student services at Susquehanna Township School District in Pennsylvania.

Yes, but: The reported level of confidence to handle the crisis is higher than it would have been three to five years ago, Duncan Young, CEO of Effective School Solutions, told Axios.

  • Back in the 1980s, schools and parents didn’t want to talk about mental health and their responsibility in addressing the problem, said pollster John Zogby, whose firm handled the survey.
  • Now, “it is a genie that’s out of the bottle,” Zogby told Axios, especially with the rise of social media. “There’s a recognition that it is growing and that much more work has to be done.”

The question is “how do we do it?” on a federal and state level to sustain the financial need when the COVID relief money runs out, Young said.

  • More than half of administrators told surveyors that they need more information on funding sources for mental health in their school district.

Bottom line: “To me,” Young said. “This is the defining education and public health issue of our time.”

  • “Over the past 15 years, there’s been a transition in terms of how schools see themselves” in terms of their role in youth mental health, Young said. “And I think this is accelerated and will be one of the long lasting legacies of COVID.”

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