Can your school keep up with students’ mental health needs?

Even before the epidemic, one-third of U.S. students struggled with anxiety, depression, trauma, or attention problems that made it difficult to focus, stay motivated, and learn. This number increased rapidly during epidemics and recovery: now half the students continue to feel sad or hopeless. This is an urgent need that schools can no longer ignore.

Why? Dealing with mental health concerns negatively affects young people’s ability to meet many school needs – from learning to interacting with peers, maintaining strength and endurance through the day’s physical needs. Early intervention is important, otherwise these students may quickly avoid and lose motivation. It affects grades, attendance, discipline and special education referrals.

Even pre-epidemic, 50 percent or less of children and adolescents with a mental health disorder received service in the previous 12 months. That number is certainly much higher today. And yet, many schools have struggled to implement something outside of Tier 1 interventions, which are simply mental health-related activities designed to meet the needs of all students, regardless of whether or not they are at risk for mental health problems.

And many of these Tier 1 interventions are on the growing list of initiatives that teachers need to implement and at a time when they are already tired. There is no time and staff to do anything more.

This is not new. When I was a school counselor a decade ago, I had 400 students in Caseload, and perhaps 40 of them needed one-on-one support to overcome their non-academic barriers (such as anxiety, ADHD, depression, lack of motivation) for success. , And trauma). But it took me literally all the time to provide that much needed support to that group of 40 students, which meant that there was no capacity to support these Tier 1 initiatives or to help students in active crisis.

What makes it different today is that the Tier 2 group of students – who are struggling and needing direct intervention to improve – has exploded well over 10-15 percent of the average student organization we have become accustomed to over the past decade. In our own data we have seen rates as high as 35 percent last year. And we can’t let it be the new normal. It’s not sustainable from a resource perspective, and because the cost is too high for our students.

What exactly do Tier 2 students need?

Students who fall into the Tier 2 intervention group need not only the universal SEL instruction that their peers receive, but also more explicit instruction, personalized coaching, and meaningful progress monitoring.

1. Daily instructions: Every day a student struggling with mental health affects the ability to fully engage in learning. And every day that feeling of “staying behind” is compounded. Thoughts of self-doubt and shame can crawl, and the student’s self-narrative can become, “I’m lazy, I’m dumb, I’m motivated,” leading them further away from the solution to the spiral. Effective school-based SELs are delivered in bite-size lessons that help students take small, achievable steps that will ultimately add lasting effect.

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