The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the availability of mental health and social services available in US schools declined significantly in the past 14 years despite an increased awareness of the importance of mental health to student achievement and well-being.
CDC periodically collects data on the physical and mental health supports that US schools provide their students. CDC’s 2014 report, includes comparisons with survey results from 2000 and 2006. Some worrisome trends stand out for me.
The number of schools:
- with someone overseeing mental health services dropped to 67% in 2014, down from 77% in 2006 and 78% 2000
- that regularly use an outside provider of mental health supports dropped to 40% in 2014, from 45% in 2006 and 52% in 2014
- that gave staff training on how to handle HIV prevention and peer mediation processes decreased by about 25% (but on the positive side training for LGBT and injury prevention increased by 100% and 75% respectively)
- requiring that students receive lessons on 7 important health risks dropped by between 15% and 30% (e.g. HIV and STD prevention, human sexuality, alcohol/drug/tobacco use)
In addition, while the CDC measures schools that exempt students from phys ed evaluation for cognitive disability, long-term medical conditions, and religious reasons (all increasing), they do not yet ask about exemptions for traumatic brain injuries (concussions). Given our emerging understanding of the prevalence and severity of concussions suffered by youth, and the importance of giving appropriate “down-time” before returning-to-play and returning-to-learn, I hope that CDC will add this question to their next survey.
On the positive side, the number of schools:
- with fitness and walking clubs/activities doubled
- with plans to address mold problems has increased by 15% since 2006
- with teachers trained in nutrition, suicide prevention, violence prevention, and fitness increased by between 25% and 100%