The effects of COVID-19 pandemic are coming to light, confirming what educators and administrators have experienced on their campuses and across their districts: increased need for mental health awareness, interventions, and services.
The Surgeon General calls this a Youth Mental Health Crisis and warns that young people are facing “devastating” mental health effects as a result of the challenges experienced by their generation, including the coronavirus pandemic.
The report cites significant increases in self-reports of depression and anxiety along with more emergency room visits for suicide attempts, which rose 51 percent for adolescent girls in early 2021 as compared to the same period in 2019.
A Health & Human Services (HHS) sponsored study, published in the Journal of American Medicine, and conducted by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), reveals 5-year trends over a variety of categories. Of note is the 5-year upward trend of increased diagnosis of anxiety and depression:
“With respect to pre-pandemic trends, there was a significant increase in diagnosed mental health conditions, specifically a 27% increase in anxiety and a 24% increase in depression, between 2016 and 2019. These findings are consistent with reports from other data sources. The direction of these trends continued into 2020, representing 5.6 million children with diagnosed anxiety and 2.4 million children diagnosed with depression” (Lebrun-Harris, et al., 2022) 
Of additional note was the “a significant (21%) increase in behavior or conduct problems between 2019 and 2020”.
Part of HHS’ response to the need for increased attention to mental health is $35million in grants to increase healthcare availability and access, nationally.
What school districts do, when faced with the increased need for attention to mental and behavioral health, will matter this year, and beyond.
As part of budgeting and planning, EduSolve recommends that district administrators focus on evaluating and implementing the following:
- A current or planned assessment of campus climate & wellness for both students and faculty.
- A clear and documented MTSS approach to mental heath.
- A collaborative approach to maximize the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
 Lebrun-Harris, L. A., Ghandour, R. M., Kogan, M. D., & Warren, M. D. (2022). Five-Year trends in US children’s health and well-being, 2016-2020. In JAMA Pediatrics, (176), e220056. American Medical Association (AMA). https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.0056