Student mental health is the top concern of school administrators, according to a new national survey

Board members express strong support for resources that help teens identify and respond to mental health or substance use challenges, regardless of political orientation

WASHINGTON, January 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — School board members across the country rank student mental health as the most pressing issue facing schools and students today, according to a new national survey of school board members commissioned by Mental Health First Aid United States® (MHFA), a course that teaches individuals how to identify, understand, and respond to signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance use disorders in their friends and neighbors.

Student mental health was the top concern for school administrators, with 86% reporting being either “extremely concerned” (56%) or “very concerned” (30%), a higher level of extreme concern than expressed for school funding (51 %), staff challenges (48%) and school safety (46%).

This comes as the nation continues to grapple with a youth mental health crisis. Not only is suicide the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 19, but one in four adolescents ages 12 to 17 has had a substance use disorder or major depressive episode in the past year.

School board members rank family and home life (66%), social media (57%) and bullying (44%) as the top three issues most affecting student mental health — surpassing disruptions caused by the COVID -19 pandemic (23 %).

They also said they strongly believe state and local policymakers should be doing “much more” to address student mental health, with 69% saying state legislatures should be doing “much more” do, and 62% said county officials should do much more.

When it comes to recognizing the signs of a student with mental illness, including suicidal thoughts or behaviors, 80% of school administrators consider parents, close relatives and friends to be most likely to see the signs.

Recognizing the signs is an important first step, but individuals also need the skills to help someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use challenge. teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) is an evidence-based training sponsored by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing to help teens in grades 10-12, or ages 15-18, manage the signs and symptoms of identify a mental health or substance use challenge in a friend. It teaches young people how to open a supportive conversation about mental health and substance use with friends and, most importantly, how to enlist the help of a responsible and trusted adult.

When school board members were asked how important it was for high school students in grades 10-12 to have access to tMHFA or a similar program, 66% said it was either “extremely important” (31%) or “very important” ( 35%). %). These numbers remain strong regardless of self-proclaimed political orientation.

“At a time when so many of our children are facing a mental health or substance use crisis, school administrators recognize the need to respond,” said Tramaine EL-Amin, MHFA client experience officer. “They also know that schools, families and teens themselves have an important role to play in addressing this crisis and they are eager to find tools that can make a difference. Since 2019, teen MHFA has proven to be a valuable resource for more than 700 schools in 36 states.”

More than 2.9 million adults in the United States are trained in MHFA. Peer-reviewed studies show that MHFA training increases students’ knowledge of signs, symptoms, and risk factors of mental health problems and substance use, as well as their confidence in their ability and likelihood to help a person in need. Mental health first aiders are also better able to identify appropriate types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with mental health or substance use challenges. For more information on teen mental health first aid, visit the MHFA website.

The survey was conducted among 344 current school administrators Sept. 30-Oct. 17, 2022, by Echelon Insights on behalf of Mental Health First Aid, sampled over the Internet using a universe of current school board members. The margin of error, calculated for an unweighted sample of 344 current board members, is +/-5.4%.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an evidence-based training program administered by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing that teaches individuals how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use. More than 2.9 million people left the United States are trained in MHFA by a dedicated base of over 15,000 instructors.

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SOURCE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR MENTAL WELLNESS

Student mental health is the top concern of school administrators, according to a new national survey

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