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Schools across the country say more students are asking for mental health services


Schools around the country say more students are asking for mental health services. The federal government counts seven out of every 10 schools reporting more requests at a time when resources for responding to mental health concerns are in short supply. NPR's Abe Levine reports.

ABE LEVINE, BYLINE: The data add details to a worrisome picture of youth mental health challenges. Among the red flags teachers are reporting - classroom outbursts.

PEGGY CARR: I mean some real serious disruptive behavior.

LEVINE: That's Peggy Carr, the commissioner for the National Center of Educational Statistics (ph), which published the survey results.

CARR: Fighting, verbal abuse not just to their peers, but also to the teachers. Bullying is up. Cyber bullying is what we're seeing.

LEVINE: And that, Carr says, means it's not just students who are feeling the stress.

CARR: The teachers were also reporting concerns about their own mental health.

LEVINE: In the survey, almost 30% of the schools reported that requests for mental health services from teachers and other staff are up. These statistics are yet another sign of the strains placed on students and educators more than three years after the pandemic began.

KELLY VAILLANCOURT STROBACH: This problem existed before COVID.

LEVINE: Kelly Vaillancourt Strobel (ph) is the director of policy and advocacy at the National Association of School Psychologists.

VAILLANCOURT STROBACH: It's gotten worse. It's not going to go away just because we appear to be coming out of the pandemic.

LEVINE: The new research also sheds a spotlight on the nationwide shortage of school mental health professionals and the funds to hire them. Vaillancourt questions what will happen when COVID emergency relief funds from Congress dry up?

VAILLANCOURT STROBACH: What's going to drop off? What students are going to no longer have access to services? Like, what's going to go away?

LEVINE: Among the things schools can do to help students, Vaillancourt says, are reaching out to local mental health providers in their communities and doing more to integrate mental health awareness into the school day.

VAILLANCOURT STROBACH: Prevention is the best investment we can do for these kids.

LEVINE: One of the biggest challenges, she adds, is getting kids to overcome the stigma around mental health treatment and to feel comfortable talking about their issues.

Abe Levine, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF CODES IN THE CLOUDS' "WASHINGTON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Abē Levine
Abē Ross Levine (he/him/她) is a second generation Chinese and Jewish kid straight outta Boston. He is a writer, cook, audio maker and instigator of verbal mischief. As a boy, he could be seen eating spinach out of one hand and holding worms in the other. He is both a lover of flavor and a seeker peering into the secret lives of bugs and their terroir.