Globally, children’s mental health is under attack by COVID-19. In the United States, students were experiencing widespread mental health distress before COVID-19: youth suicide has been on the rise for the past decade and is now the second leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds. The pandemic is making matters worse: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an increase in mental health-related visits as a proportion of emergency room visits for children ages 5 to 17 during 2020.
As students in the United States begin to safely return to in-person classes, schools must be equipped to deal with the anxiety, stress and interrupted social development caused by COVID-19. A failure to support students now can have lifelong consequences.
Now more than ever, we need to ensure every child has access to mental health services through their school, particularly the most vulnerable including LGBTQ students and students of color. The bipartisan Mental Health Services for Students Act would provide grant funding for schools to provide on-site, culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services for students. This investment will help students thrive in school, at home and in life, and ensure that schools are ready for the return of students from all walks of life as they navigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. too.