With many students returning to their classrooms this season, parents, educators, and policymakers are rightly focusing on efforts to address the learning loss experienced during the pandemic. But responding to academic shocks from the pandemic is only part of what is needed in our educational recovery.
There is no doubt that distance learning has had significant consequences for adolescent mental health, which for many students have been exacerbated by a variety of factors. Extracurricular and extracurricular programs, including sports, have been affected, students have faced isolation and lost critical connections with their peers, and many are bearing an additional financial burden as families face economic challenges and food insecurity. .
At a time when our physical health is talked about every day, we must ensure that our mental and behavioral well-being also receives the attention it deserves. And for students to cope, timely access and new sources of support at their school is critical.
As a former school board member, I have seen first-hand how school-based mental health interventions have improved families’ ability to find and navigate resources, help them advocate for their children, and increase their academic success. the students.
Steven Luo, a senior at Evergreen Valley High School, said it best during this year’s virtual 18th annual “Bus Ride to Sacramento for Education,” an event organized by my office each year to raise the voices of the students:
“As a student, I can tell you many stories from friends and classmates who feel stressed, anxious or even depressed, but who do not access services. Seventy-nine percent of youth and young adults who experience mental health problems do not access care. Unfortunately, these resources are not always available or there are obstacles to accessing them. “
As Luo noted, nearly 50% of mental health problems set in at age 14 and 75% at age 24. And the CDC has found that mental health-related emergency room visits have increased by 24% for people ages 5 to 11. 31 and 12% for those aged 17 to XNUMX. Having widely accessible mental health support services is essential to the well-being of students.
My colleagues in the State Legislature are also prioritizing the mental health of students.
The success of school mental health programs as “School Linked Services” In Santa Clara County, with accredited professionals available to meet student needs, is serving as a model for mental health partnerships between counties and schools throughout California. And I am proud to announce that a budget request I made this year was approved to increase the Student Mental Health Services Act grant program and allow millions of other children and youth to receive mental health and emotional support through the “School-Linked Services” as they return to schools and everyday life.
This month, I was appointed to serve on our state Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission and I look forward to working in this role to continue identifying and providing new ways to meet the mental health needs of our community, especially our student community. The pandemic has only revealed that we need to invest more in mental health education, diversion, and treatment programs in our state to serve people of all ages.
Before I go, I’d like to ask you to consider taking this little action: share with a loved one a personal story about how COVID-19 has impacted your mental health. Talking to other people about mental health is an important way to remove any stigma and identify our own needs.
Senator Dave Cortese represents District 15 which encompasses much of Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley. Along with his successful career as a lawyer and business owner, Cortese previously served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, the San Jose City Council, and the East Side Union High School District board.