Student Well-Being

How Can Schools Support Student Mental Health? 2 Principals and a Psychiatrist Weigh In

By Libby Stanford — December 27, 2023 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

School district leaders across the country are battling a crisis in student mental health with limited funds, the limited availability of mental health professionals, and limited clarity on the best path forward.

In 2021, 42 percent of high school students reported feeling so sad or hopeless for at least two consecutive weeks that they stopped engaging in their usual activities, up from 26 percent from 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Those numbers were higher among girls and LGBTQ+ youth. Meanwhile, Black children have been nearly twice as likely as their white peers to die by suicide in recent years.

The challenge hasn’t spared any school district, large or small, urban or rural, and a nationwide shortage of school psychologists and other mental health professionals hasn’t made it any easier to respond. During the 2021-22 school year, there were 1,127 students to every school psychologist nationally, over double the National Association of School Psychologists’ recommended ratio of 500 students to every psychologist. Plus, many school psychologists’ days are consumed by testing for special education rather than providing mental health services to students.

See Also

Mental health solutions SR Lead 04
Laura Baker/Education Week and iStock/Getty

School leaders, especially those in rural areas where access to mental health services can be limited, have found creative ways to respond to the crisis.

In a Dec. 7 conversation with Education Week, two principals—Ben Carr of Mountain View High School in Wyoming and Jonathan Apostol of Monnett Middle School in Missouri—shared how they have ramped up mental health support for their students.

Both lead schools in rural areas, where it can be difficult to access mental health care, and have worked to establish partnerships with local mental health centers and therapists to provide in-school support. They’ve also expanded suicide prevention programs that train even students to recognize signs that their peers are in trouble and emphasized preventive measures, such as social-emotional learning and mental health screening.

“As a school, we definitely have a responsibility to provide these mental health supports during a student’s school day,” Carr said. “We have to get creative. If it was easy, students would already be doing it.”

The dedication of principals like Carr and Apostol is necessary to address mental health problems among students and prevent challenges from becoming bigger, said Dr. Laura Erickson-Schroth, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at The Jed Foundation, which works with schools and districts on instituting comprehensive strategies for mental health support and suicide prevention.

“We have so many opportunities to support young people, and there’s so much we can do to improve things so they become the adults that then run our communities and help us to solve these problems,” Erickson-Schroth said.

See Also

Principal Jonathan A.C. Apostol stands for a portrait at Monett Middle School in Monett, Mo., on Sept. 29, 2023.
Principal Jonathan A.C. Apostol stands for a portrait at Monett Middle School in Monett, Mo., on Sept. 29, 2023. The school started investing in student mental health services before the COVID-19 pandemic, and its new building includes a designated area for mental health counselors that doubles as a calming space for students.
Michael Noble Jr. for Education Week

Related Tags:


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Q&A A Superintendent Explains Why Her District Is Suing Social Media Companies
Student mental health and behavioral issues have become a major drain on district resources as social media use has risen.
3 min read
Teenage girl looking at smart phone
Student Well-Being Opinion When Students Feel Unlucky, Teachers Can Help Change That Attitude
Mindsets matter when it comes to thinking about opportunity. Here’s what new research finds.
Paul A. O'Keefe
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Student Well-Being A Mental Health Screening Saved Students’ Lives in This District
A district that deployed a universal mental health screening was able to intervene immediately with five students who had suicide plans.
4 min read
Vector illustration of a counselor or psychologist holding a clipboard in one hand and an umbrella above in the other over an anxious woman who is tucking her head into her knees with a tangled line hovering above her head.
Student Well-Being Parents Worried About Their Kids' Mental Health See the Fix in New Schooling Options
Parents who say they are considering a change to their children's education identify mental health as a driving factor, a new report shows.
5 min read
Student walking down the stairs at her school.
iStock / Getty Images Plus