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The U.S. Surgeon General recommends schools create safer, more supportive environments for students and staff.
March 2, 2022 is World Teen Mental Wellness Day. It’s meant to help dismantle the stigma around mental health challenges and influence teenagers to focus on their wellbeing.
Even prior to the pandemic, U.S. schools experienced an alarming increase in mental health challenges amongst students. In 2019, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, one in three high school students reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. This was an overall increase of 40% from 2009. The pandemic only exasperated the challenges youth were already facing and created more as COVID-19 dramatically disrupted their lives.
How Did COVID-19 Impact Youth Mental Health?
A JAMA Pediatrics’ study that covered 80,000 U.S. youth found that depression and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic. And that’s not all. Emergency hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts in early 2021 were 51% higher for U.S. adolescent girls and 4% higher for U.S. adolescent boys compared to early 2019.
“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis (the pandemic) only to allow another to grow in its place,” Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., wrote in Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory.
How Can Schools Support Student Mental Health?
The Surgeon General’s Advisory notes that “mental health challenges can reveal themselves in a variety of ways at school, such as in a student having trouble concentrating in class, being withdrawn, acting out, or struggling to make friends.” It’s critical that students receive the right support.
The Advisory recommends eight ways schools support students during these trying times:
- Create positive, safe, and affirming schools
- Implement or expand social and emotional learning programs
- Understand the signs of mental health issues, such as a change in behavior early on
- Help students get the right support as needed by partnering with counselors and mental health organizations
- Hire more school-based mental health support personnel, like counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses
- Support the mental health of staff and teachers, including integrating wellness practices into professional development
- Encourage guardians to enroll eligible children in health coverage that includes behavioral health services, like Medicaid and CHIP
- Prioritize students that have higher risk of mental health challenges, including those with disabilities, childhood trauma, poverty, and previous mental health challenges
How Can School Safety Software Help?
Across the nation, we have seen an increase in violence and students misbehaving in our schools. Experts believe this is a direct result of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected students’ daily lives and mental health.
The Raptor School Safety Suite helps schools better prepare for and address behavioral issues and violence. Raptor also makes it easier for schools to recruit and screen volunteers and mentors that can help support student mental health challenges.
Learn more about Raptor by scheduling a personalized demo today.