In light of the rising rates of teen depression and anxiety in the United States, today, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is releasing a new report outlining 10 high-level strategies to improve behavioral health in schools. Per recent data from the CDC, among adolescents aged 12-17 years, 15% had a major depressive episode, 37% had persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, 19% seriously considered attempting suicide, and 16% made a suicide plan.
“Youth rates of anxiety and depression have been climbing at an alarming rate,” said ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser.
“The COVID-19 pandemic amplified these trends as many students were isolated from their friends, teachers, and mentors for months at a time. America’s youth needs to be supported, and there is no better place to do this than within our schools.”
ASTHO, in partnership with CDC Healthy Schools Branch, convened a School Behavioral Health Advisory Committee to identify policy gaps and strategies for delivering behavioral health services in schools. This advisory committee identified 10 strategies school leaders can implement to improve mental health among their students.
The 10 strategies include:
Collaborate with the Department of Education on a comprehensive mental health framework to guide student well-being, such as the Multi-Tiered System of Supports FrameworkUtilize shared and inclusive language when communicating work around school behavioral health.
Use a strength-based approach when collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data highlighting the role of student connectedness and resiliency.Harmonize data sources between cross-sector agencies to understand a complete picture of youth behavioral health.
Assemble a cross-sector team with representation across all relevant sectors and levels of implementation.Improve the capacity of the traditional and non-traditional school workforce to address behavioral health. says ASTHO report.
Expand Medicaid reimbursement in school settings by removing state restrictions on school health services, to align with national Free Care Reversal Guidance.
Expand school telehealth service provision.Leverage recent federal school health funding to support school behavioral health services.Braid/layer funding to support a shared risk and protective factors approach to youth behavioral health.
“Youth are suffering now more than ever as we continue to see the impact of the pandemic on their development and well-being,” said Sharon Hoover, Ph.D., professor with the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-director with the National Center for School Mental Health.