Students who have access to high-quality, holistic mental health support in schools are not only physically healthier, but more likely to graduate high school and successfully complete postsecondary education.
Unfortunately, students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities lack access to mental health services in their schools. And the differences are staggering.
Disparities in Access to Mental Health Supports for Underserved Students
The need for comprehensive, culturally responsive, and evidence-based mental health support in schools has never been greater. Mental health challenges have increased during the pandemic, with findings from the CDC in 2021 showing:
- 37% of students in grades 9-12 report experiencing poor mental health
- 1 in 5 students have seriously considered suicide
- 1 in 10 attempt suicide
Additionally, the need for high-quality mental health support in schools is especially important for underserved students, including students of color, who often face a unique and challenging set of external social and economic factors. According to a 2019 report from the Office of Minority Health, Suicide is the second leading cause of death among African Americans ages 15 to 24, and black high school girls are 60% more likely to attempt suicide than their black peers. White..
Behind these figures are real children. Millions of students across the country, especially students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities, lack access to critical school-based mental health services.
In this brief, the Ed Trust outlines the challenges and barriers that exist for students experiencing mental health issues, and offers steps that can be taken at the national, state, and local levels – which educators , advocates, and policy makers at all levels of government can begin to assess by using our web tool, Is Your State Prioritizing SEAD?, a 50-state scan of state policies that support social, emotional, and academic needs of their students.
The reality is that the social, emotional, and academic development of young people is enhanced in school climates that provide mental health resources and are staffed with trained mental health professionals to meet those needs. of the diverse student body. District leaders have the authority to ensure that mental health support services are rooted in a race-based lens that promotes inclusion, access, and positive practices for students of color. It’s time for that to happen — for the sake of the children.