To the Editor:
As a recent Education Week article pointed out, student depression is on the rise (“Schools Grapple With Student Depression as Data Show Problem Worsening,” March 14, 2019). While research shows there is an increase in mental illness among teens, I am not aware of any “intentional and strategic” plan to help students in my school district.
The federal, state, and local policymakers may be too late in exploring ways of preventing an epidemic. According to an analysis co-authored by psychologist Jean Twenge that the article references, in 2017, approximately 13.2 percent of teens 12-17 reported symptoms of a major depressive episode within the last year. Despite calls for intensive support for students diagnosed with mental illness, there is still no urgency in federal response to support schools.
Data show that the national average student-to-counselor ratio is one counselor to 482 students, which limits the effective support needed to address students and their needs. Rather than highlighting the issue after a tragedy, there should be greater emphasis on implementing mental-health programs tailored with additional support staff or counselors. In addition, policymakers should collectively collaborate with districts and school leaders to address the growing concerns of mental health and student wellness.
It may be difficult for districts to adopt an immediate plan to help students, but small changes will eventually lead to big shifts.
A version of this article appeared in the April 10, 2019 edition of Education Week as Feds Show No Urgency for Mental-Health Resources