Students Voice Gaps in School Mental Health Resources
You don’t have to go too far to hear about the crisis of children’s mental health. Perhaps you are familiar with the Surgeon General’s recent call for action as many students are not receiving the treatment needed to provide for their mental health. Maybe you have heard some of the disturbing statistics such as research finding that suicide attempts among teenage girls increased by 50% during the pandemic. It’s not surprising that children’s mental health is considered by many professionals to be a national emergency.
In fact, an interesting recent news story revealed that New York has launched a program charged with paying parents $500 to become Wellness Ambassadors by seeking to help address mental health and emotional wellness in their children’s communities. Not only is this an innovative way to engage parents as part of the solution, it also serves as an exclamation point on the reality that today’s environment of toxic stress has truly created a mental health crisis where schools are in desperate need of solutions.
The importance of child mental health is further compounded by the fact that experiencing trauma and toxic stress as children can have negative impacts that persist into adulthood including feelings of shame and guilt, feeling disconnected, poor emotional wellness, and increased likelihood of depression, anger, heart disease, and other issues. This leaves many educators and parents wondering what can be done about the current mental health crisis.
The Importance of Evidence-Based Solutions
The importance of finding solutions to this issue are emphasized by research into the current climate in schools. 51% of young Americans note feeling “down, depressed, or hopeless.” This is not necessarily surprising when you consider that this generation has experienced a pandemic, multiple financial crises, and many crises. The same study found that 68% of students have little energy and 59% have difficulty sleeping while half find little pleasure in life.
Students are definitely aware that a crisis of emotional wellness is afoot. A Michigan student, Thyaba Mymuna, noted, “There’s so many people struggling with mental health and I see every day on the news and all over social media people killing themselves. It all just hurts me so much because they could have been helped, but they weren’t.”
Students in Michigan speak up about the gaps in mental health resources in their schools.
During the same web event, student Brittyn Benjamin-Kelley discussed that students are trying to find their own solutions, stating “We’re working together because we feel like there’s no one else who can do something for us.” When students have concluded that those charged with their emotional wellness are either unable or unwilling to help, there is truly a problem.
We are living in a situation where schools are in trouble. Teachers are burnt out. Principals are in need of support. Staffing challenges in schools further contribute to the problem, with over half of teachers currently thinking about quitting. We need to serve students but cannot expect overburdened teachers and administrators to create new solutions from scratch. What schools need are evidence-based solutions for socio-emotional learning.
ARP ESSER Funds Can Be Used to Promote Mental Health
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a wave of funding to help many aspects of society including schools. One such allocation was the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, typically called ESSER. These funds were aimed at helping provide money for schools to deal with cleaning, summer school, mental health, and other needs during the pandemic.
However, many states found it difficult to identify uses for ESSER funds, leading to many of the funds being still unspent. In fact, it is estimated that up to $63 billion in ESSER funds have not been spent. This is an immense amount of money that could be being used to address the current mental health crisis being experienced by our nation’s children.
Research has shown that school can use a more rigorous approach to socio-emotional learning, particularly when it comes to SEL goal-setting. Having school-wide or district-wide structures that set SEL goals for students can help improve emotional wellness and proactively address student mental health.
Clymb as a Emotional Wellness Solution
Clymb is an evidence-based resource that can help schools to structure a comprehensive efforts to teach socio-emotional wellness. The software includes a RAND-recommended SEL assessment that has been used by thousands of students for the creation of individualized SEL goal setting and emotional wellness interventions.
This tool is aligned with CASEL principles and provides each student with a personalized plan that drives personal learning based upon a short, daily check-in. Together, Clymb’s assessments produce an easy-to-use method for helping students improve their socio-emotional learning and overall emotional wellness.
In addition to being an evidence-based solution that relies on frequent individualized assessments, Clymb succeeds in addressing student mental health without the need for over-burdening teachers and staff that already have extensive expectations. In fact, research has shown that Clymb is effective in reducing teacher burnout by helping students improve their self-esteem and emotional regulation, leading to fewer behavioral outbursts and better self-management.
The flexibility of Clymb also makes it the perfect tool to help students during a pandemic. It’s easy to integrate nature means it can seamlessly be integrated into in-person classes or a virtual curriculum. Clymb does the work for teachers, providing students with activities that are most geared towards their present socio-emotional learning needs.
Going forward, it is incredibly important to prioritize students in a holistic manner which means not just academic preparation but also meeting their emotional wellness and mental health needs. “I don’t think it’s too much to expect people in power to support us, especially when it comes to mental health,” noted Michgan student Thyaba Mymuna.
This is certainly true. Students have begun speaking out and getting involved in the conversation. We need to respect their voices and prioritize them in decision-making. Providing students with the necessary resources to be able to thrive is incredibly important at this volatile time in our nation’s history. Clymb is here to help and can be integrated into your curriculum using federal ESSER funds.