School is meant to be a safe place, with an estimated 95 percent of children in the United States spending most of their days in school. School is a place for children to develop their skills, foster new relationships, and learn how to build a productive, successful future. However, new data shows that an alarming number of adolescents do not feel safe within their school systems – and it is having a devastating impact on their mental health. Amidst an ongoing mental health crisis in youth, we are also seeing an increased mental health crisis within school systems.
The Mental Health Crisis, By the Numbers
Consider these numbers, newly released from the Centers of Disease Control in 2023:
- 15 percent of teenagers were bullied at school during the last year, while 16 percent were electronically bulled.
- 7 percent of teen students were threatened or injured with a weapon at school.
- 9 percent of students, including 10 percent of females and 14 percent of LGBQ+ students, did not go to school due to safety concerns.
The lack of safety in school is contributing to the growing mental health crisis in schools:
- Over 40 percent of students in 2021 felt persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
- Roughly 30 percent of students experienced poor mental health in the last 30 days.
The CDC highlights the importance of schools in a recent feature, explaining that schools have the unique opportunity to impact students for the better. They can promote connectedness among peers, foster trusted relationships between youth and adult mentors, equip them with knowledge and skills to navigate challenges in life, and give students the opportunity to ask for things they need.
Why, then, are we facing a crisis in our school systems?
Why are We Facing a Mental Health Crisis in Schools?
Between an increasing number of school shootings, remnants of grief from the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased stress and pressure among teen students today, there are many reasons that their mental health is taking a toll.
However, a news story from USA Today puts one factor into perspective: There is a growing shortage of mental health professionals to support students on school grounds.
The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one school psychologist per every 500 students. However, according to the article, the United States needs an additional 60,000 school psychologists to meet the recommended ratio of psychologists to students.
Yet in order to combat the mental health crisis among teenagers, the CDC is calling for support services and programs to be implemented in schools. And if these programs cannot be implemented in schools, then schools must be able to connect teens with the resources they need and deserve.
Too often, adolescents face issues with their mental health and do not receive the help they require. As the USA Today article explains, of the one in 5 children experiencing a mental health disorder each year, most do not receive treatment services at all. Of those who do receive treatment, 70 to 80 percent first accessed those services through their school, according to the National Association of School Psychologists.
What Can We Do About the Mental Health Crisis in Schools?
The CDC calls for the following actions to be taken, to help students and to fight the mental health crisis among school-aged students:
- School environments need to be made safer for teenagers, particularly those in female and LGBQ+ demographics who feel especially unsafe.
- School environments need to be more supportive, with programs, counselors, and mentors available to those students who are struggling and need someone to talk to.
- Schools need to offer education that is inclusive and comprehensive, teaching students about mental health and the importance of self-care.
- Schools need to become more connected with mental health treatment services outside school walls, facilitating referrals for students in need of clinical, therapeutic services as well as prevention programs.
Parents can also play an important role in protecting and advocating for their teens. Staying in touch with your teen, advocating for their mental health, and teaching them strategies to prioritize their well-being can all be protective in keeping your loved one safe. Additionally, having open and compassionate conversations at home, and encouraging your teen to be honest about their mental health, can play an incredible role in preventing escalated mental health issues down the line. Furthermore, these conversations can give you, as a parent, insight into whether your teen feels safe at school – and what to do if there are concerns.
Turnbridge is a leader in mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults. Amidst concerning growth in mental health issues among student populations, we stand as a present and available resource for those struggling. As we continue to navigate solutions in schools, know that Turnbridge will be here for your teenager. Our clinicians are specially trained in the unique experiences of teenagers facing issues with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other mental health issues. We have gender-specific, trauma-informed programs for young men and young women, as well as inpatient and outpatient programs available.
Learn more by calling 877-581-1793 today.