Oct. 10, 2023 – For instance, in 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued an advisory that calls for, among other things, expanding the mental health workforce in schools by using federal, state and local funds.

President Joe Biden released a Mental Health Strategy in 2022 that seeks to provide mental health care to more children. And in May 2023, the Biden administration announced US$286 million for 264 grantees to train and hire school mental health professionals – a move that grantees say will enable them to prepare more than 14,000 new mental health professionals for America’s schools. That’s a significant number, but schools would need to hire more than five times that amount to meet recommended ratios. 

As a professor of school psychology – and as a recipient of one of those grants – I also know that as important as it is to train more school counselors and school psychologists, increasing their numbers alone is not enough to change the course of the rising mental health needs among America’s children and youth. That is, doubling staffing of mental health professionals in schools doesn’t guarantee they will be used effectively or appropriately. Without accompanying changes to school systems and priorities, I fear the mental health needs among our youth will continue to accelerate, as it did during the pandemic.

To address this challenge, I see three areas where schools need to revamp the way they meet students’ mental health needs.