If you are like sixty percent of educators surveyed on a recent poll on LinkedIn, you don’t know what it is about February, but you can agree it is one of the most brutal months of the school year. Student behaviors tend to rise with few school breaks between January and March, long winter days, and less outside time. Simultaneously, educators’ stamina wanes, often leaving schools overtaxed with competing demands, understaffed, and stressed to the max. 

Experts agree that Colorado’s youth mental health crisis continues to grow. 

School-based mental health providers are working tirelessly to support their school systems and respond to overwhelming demands. These demands are caused by a mounting mental health crisis facing our youth. Unfortunately, experts agree that Colorado’s youth mental health crisis continues to grow. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a youth mental health state of emergency one year ago. Since then, the pediatric health system has continued to see record numbers of kids and youth in mental health crises. Recent data shows a 23% increase in patients visiting hospital emergency departments for behavioral health concerns when compared to the first quarter of 2021. This represents a staggering 103% increase from the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic began.

As youth struggle to cope with stress and hopelessness, behavior challenges become a product of the youth mental health crisis. These behavior challenges include:

  • classroom disruptions
  • aggressive behavior
  • negative mindsets
  • apathy
  • inconsistent school attendance

The annual “School Pulse Panel,” a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES) revealed some troubling trends in the current school year. More than 80% of public schools reported “stunted behavioral and socioemotional development” among students because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Schools also saw a 56% increase in “classroom disruptions from student misconduct” and a 49% increase in “rowdiness outside of the classroom.” Seven in 10 public schools reported increases in students seeking mental health services since the start of the pandemic.

The responsibility for responding to students’ need for mental health intervention cannot rest exclusively on school-based mental health providers.

According to a recent research study

, the responsibility for identifying, managing, and providing interventions for at-risk students often falls exclusively on school counselors as the only mental health providers in the school setting. However, when student behavior incidences increase, so do the immediate demands on the school counselor, leaving no one to plan, coordinate and implement necessary interventions. The weight of planning, developing, and responding to students’ behavior intervention needs often falls exclusively on the school counselor. Statistics from the American School Counseling Association’s (ASCA) State of the Profession explore how often interventions are left undelivered. In ASCA’s survey, 80% of counselors spent 60%, or more, of their time on duties they felt pulled them away from delivering the services they had planned.

Schools are the essential place to provide targeted mental health services to support improved behavior. Students are most likely to seek and participate in counseling support and intervention offered within their school setting. However, the responsibility for responding to this need cannot rest exclusively on school-based mental health providers. Innovative solutions with community partners are necessary now more than ever if we want to see a decrease in classroom disruptions, aggressive behavior, negative mindsets, apathy, and inconsistent school attendance. 

Innovative solutions with community partners are necessary now more than ever.

Resource-stretched schools can ensure comprehensive mental health support for students by creating partnerships with innovative community-based service providers. 

Community mental health providers should partner with schools to offer student-centered services designed to target specific behavioral concerns provided as an integrated component of the student’s school day. Such partnerships promote and safeguard students’ access to evidence-based interventions and can be delivered consistently. Partnerships allow school counselors to rest assured their students are getting intervention services regardless of the unpredictable immediate demands that may surface each school day. 

Equity Associates logo on a white backgroundEquity Associates is a telemental health organization explicitly designed to respond to the dynamic needs of schools. Founded by educators, for educators, we are here to help shoulder the increased demand for mental health support in your school setting. We help schools align their school-based mental health practices with evidence-based interventions, or we provide your students with access to targeted, evidence-based small-group mental health interventions delivered by our network of highly qualified and specialized mental health providers. Equity Associates provides our services to your students within their school settings through a data-driven model. We are committed to improving the behavior outcomes at your school without increasing demands on your staff. Equity Associates is on a mission to remove barriers to accessing quality mental health intervention, thus improving student behavior one school at a time.

Join Equity Associates for our What is it About February series. We will look deeper into how schools can respond to the youth mental health crisis. We will share strategies for diminishing classroom disruptions, aggressive behavior, negative mindsets, apathy, and inconsistent school attendance. While we also discuss best practices for creating school-community mental health partnerships.