By Rachel Janfaza, CNN
The Biden administration on Tuesday released a plan to address rising mental health concerns among students in schools across the country.
The plan from the US Department of Education, titled “Supporting Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health,” comes as young people continue to struggle with their mental health as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plan lays out seven critical areas of difficulty educators and care providers may experience when it comes to addressing the mental health of young people and includes a corresponding seven-point list of recommendations aimed at helping schools’ and providers improve the emotional well-being of students and children.
The Department of Education noted that young people struggled with mental health before the Covid-19 pandemic, key data points from the last 18 months demonstrate “the need for urgent action,” such as increased mental health connected emergency department visits, according to the report.
The recommendations from the Department of Education — which apply to early-childhood, K-12 and higher education — the plan says, include suggestions to “enhance mental health literacy and reduce stigma and other barriers to access,” “enhance workforce capacity,” and “use data for decision making to promote equitable implementation and outcomes.”
Congress authorized more than $190 billion to help America’s schools reopen and stay open during the pandemic — some of which could be spent on mental health services in schools.
While a lot of those funds were initially used to buy PPE, upgrade ventilation and boost summer school programs, as of September, CNN reported, there were still billions of dollars left to be spent.
Tuesday’s plan calls for schools and programs to “leverage policy and funding.”
“Our efforts as educators must go beyond literacy, math, history, science, and other core subjects to include helping students to build the social, emotional, and behavioral skills they will need to fully access and participate in learning and make the most of their potential and future opportunities,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.
“Amid the pandemic, we know that our students have experienced so much. We can’t unlock students’ potential unless we also address the needs they bring with them to the classroom each day. As educators, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we are helping to provide students with a strong social and emotional foundation so that they also can excel academically,” he said.
With its plan, the Department of Education points to school districts and programs across the country — in states such as New Jersey, California, Oregon and Vermont — that have already implemented successful techniques for improving students mental health. Examples include a peer based initiative for college students in California, youth advisory councils funded by the state legislature in Oregon and a program to support students of military families started by the Military Child Education Coalition.
The resource comes after mental health advocates and doctors earlier this year called on the Biden administration to address the youth mental health concerns that have coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic.
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CNN’s Katie Lobosco contributed to this report.