Have you ever felt down for no reason? Or so fatigued that you can't bring yourself to get out of bed in the morning? Maybe you've been unmotivated to work on responsibilities despite having the capability to succeed. These are examples of our brains struggling with the effects of poor mental health.
Mental health affects every aspect of our lives. It controls how we interact with others, solve problems, and view ourselves. People who struggle with mental health tend to feel left out of their social groups, regard themselves with low self-esteem, and generally suffer from low self-confidence.
Mental Health in Education
Children spend a significant portion of their formative years as students. The school environment helps prepare them for the workforce and living in society as an adult, but it can also cause stress. Pressure from parents and faculty members to succeed can create anxiety for students. At the same time, students can also be pressured by peers to socialize and behave in certain ways.
Cyberbullying is also a significant concern in many schools. Social media can be a positive tool to keep children connected to their friends outside the classroom, but it can also be used maliciously.
All of this can exacerbate mental health issues in children, which can cause them to struggle in school. Grades can slip, they become more withdrawn from friends and family, and they may even act out in unexpected ways.
How Schools Can Help
Teachers and guidance counselors are students' most important allies during the school year. Promoting positive communication between students and faculty is critical for improving mental health.
Teachers are uniquely positioned to monitor how students are faring academically and socially. They can guide troubled youth who are struggling at home or in the classroom. Some students may even feel more comfortable approaching their teacher with any issues they face rather than their family, depending on the circumstances.
Guidance counselors also play a role in monitoring mental health. Unlike teachers, they often have formal training in psychology and can provide a confidential outlet for students to share their feelings about school and home life.
Why is Mental Health Funding So Important?
While teachers and guidance counselors are valuable resources, many schools don't have the funds to invest in specialized training and other solutions for addressing mental health.
Fortunately, there are funding options available for improving student well-being. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund can be used for mental health services, such as hiring school counselors or starting social-emotional learning (SEL) programs. This can empower educators to be more proactive in referring students to resources both within and outside school.
When students are mentally well, they can focus more on learning, making it easier for teachers to do their job. It also opens up opportunities for them to become involved in leadership programs, build valuable relationships with peers, and engage in after-school clubs, sports and community service.
Why is Mental Health
Recent legislation is also supporting the need for increased mental health resources in schools:
- The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, established in 2022, allocates grants to educational institutions for mental health funding. The act also outlines plans to fund school violence reduction and further legislation to keep weapons out of schools.
- In August 2022, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services awarded $44 million to schools to acknowledge and prevent mental health conditions in students, including those exacerbated by the pandemic.
- President Biden addressed mental health concerns, particularly among students, in his State of the Union in March 2022. In his speech, he directly cited the adverse effects of COVID-19 on children.
- HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra launched the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health to interact with young people and listen to their mental health challenges. He also met with leaders across several communities to stress the importance of mental health in schools.