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Biden Administration To Prioritize Mental Health As Schools Reopen

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The Biden administration has a plan to make mental health a crucial part of the school environment

As kids across the country adjust to life back at school, the Biden administration wants to see mental health finally being prioritized in the school setting. For too long, “health” in school meant a single nurse for the entire student body, but as Biden’s Education Secretary stated, we “have a lot of emotional needs that haven’t been met in the last two years,” and schools need to be better equipped to take that on.

New guidance from the Biden administration puts mental health in the center of the country’s return to in-person learning and on October 19, 2021, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona released a seven-point plan on how schools can best address students’ social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs. The goal is that wellness and mental health care is a crucial part of the school experience.

This new guidance has always been necessary, and missing from schools, but is even more important now after many reports have declared a mental health crisis among kids as a result of the pandemic.

“If you talk to a student right now, they are not saying, ‘I want to go back to school because my calculus skills aren’t what they used to be.’ There’s a lot of need to be around a bigger group, to be with their peers,” Cardona told Teen Vogue. “We cannot look at [mental wellbeing] as an additional thing to do if there’s time. We really need to make sure it’s the foundation on which we’re building academic support, academic recovery. We have to address where the students are emotionally before we can access a wider bandwidth for academic learning.”

“I think it’s short-sighted if we go into reopening schools in a pandemic ignoring the fact that our student’s mental health and their physical health need attention as well,” Cardona continued.

So what does prioritizing mental health in schools look like?

Students may be able to block off time in their class schedule for mental upkeep and self-care. There may be mental health screenings and check-ins that can connect students with resources. Teachers could also spend more time in class speaking on the topic of stress reduction and in general, teachers need more understanding and education of their own around mental health.

Cardona says this new outreach is inspired by his own feelings as a teen and how he wished he understood more about his own mental health and how to get help when he was in school.

“I think what I wish I knew when I was going through school as a young person is [mental health] affects more people than you think,” he said. “A healthy mind and a healthy body allow people to reach their potential.”