A survey released Tuesday documents the toll the pandemic has taken on students’ mental health, with 7 out of 10 public schools seeing a rise in children seeking services. And 76 percent said faculty and staff have expressed concerns about depression, anxiety and trauma in students since the start of the pandemic.
However, only about half of the schools said they were able to effectively provide needed services.
The results come as a very stressful school year comes to a close. They add to the evidence that the pandemic is leaving this generation of students with significant mental health challenges. Anecdotally, teachers report that students’ emotional development has stalled during months or more of remote study, and that many of them return to the classroom without dealing with skills that would be typical for their ages.
“The pandemic has taken a clear and significant toll on students’ mental health,” said Peggy J. Carr, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which conducted the survey.
The survey was conducted in April, before last week devastating massacre At an elementary school in Ovaldi, Texas.
The survey found that as a result of increased needs, 2 out of 3 schools have increased the types or amount of mental health services available. Almost all schools – 96 percent – offer at least some school mental health services, most commonly from a school counselor or licensed mental health service provider employed by the school system.
In addition, just over half of the schools provided teacher training on how to assist students with their social, emotional or mental well-being, and nearly half created or expanded social and emotional health programs.
Seven out of 10 schools said they had a program in place to deal with social and emotional learning, even as those programs did under attack Conservative in some societies.
Separately, 28 percent of schools said they made changes to daily or annual academic calendars in the hopes of alleviating mental health issues. In some places, this was a controversial move because it meant classes were canceled on certain days, prompting families already depleted by campus closures to scramble for care.
Principal Derek Lawson said Indio High School in Southern California offers 14 support groups to address students’ social and emotional needs. The groups address topics such as grief, wellness, anger management, and social skills. Some are long-term, others meet for a short period.
He said about 400 students, out of about 2,000 at the school, participate in at least one of the groups. Lawson said the school relies on outside providers and would run more groups if he could find ways to hire them.
“We have a greater need than we can find people,” he said.
In many cases, he said, the pandemic has given rise to long-running mental health struggles. He likened it to what appeared to be a quiet pool of water. “If you drain the water, all of a sudden, you’ll find all kinds of things.”
The federal survey found that many school officials say the growing needs are not being met.
Only 12 percent of schools strongly agreed with the statement “My school is able to effectively provide mental health services to all students in need.” Another 44 percent said they moderately agree.
That left 44 percent of those who refused or did not express an opinion. The most common reasons cited were insufficient staffing, and about half of the schools, lack of funding.
The survey found no significant differences on this question between schools based on the ethnic or economic demographics of student bodies.
The study also found that middle and high schools were more likely than elementary schools to say they could serve all students.
The survey found that mental health needs were urgent not only for students, but also for school staff. 3 out of 10 schools reported an increase in the number of staff seeking mental health services at the school, and 6 out of 10 reported an increase in staff concern about their own health or the mental health of their peers.
Some schools have responded to these increased needs by providing additional professional development in mental health and more time to prepare for classes. Three in 10 offered additional paid time off, and compensation increased by 14 percent.
The survey of 830 K-12 public schools from a sample selected to be nationally representative was conducted April 12-26 by the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Federal Department of Education. The survey, which is run monthly, was created to track the impact of the pandemic, including the amount of in-person education offered by districts.
Almost all schools now offer full-time, in-person and part-time school. The April survey found a decline in the proportion of schools taking students out of the building due to quarantine, dropping from 94 percent during the Omicron surge in January to 30 percent in April.