/ATPE/media/Assets/National-Suicide-Prevention-Month_v2-(730-%c3%97-300-px).png?ext=.png /ATPE/media/Assets/National-Suicide-Prevention-Month_v2-(730-%c3%97-300-px).png?ext=.png

Part 2: National Suicide Prevention Month – The State of Mental Health Services in Public Schools

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 9/21/2022

Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, or call 911 immediately.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that 16.5% of children under 18 years old and in public schools have had at least one mental health disorder, with nearly half (49.4%) not receiving needed treatment.

During the 2019-20 academic year, 55% of public schools provided mental health assessment services, according to the NCES. The number of public schools offering treatment services was fewer (42%). However, the public school availability of either type of service grew by 4% from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Most schools offered these services both in and out of school in some manner (60.6% for diagnostic [assessment], and 62.4% for treatment), according to NCES.

In 2021, the Texas Senate passed ATPE-supported SB 279, which provides information on suicide hotlines and raises students an awareness of immediate access to help during a crisis. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) also launched Project Restore with a training video series to assist students in coping with the stress and trauma caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TEA, in collaboration with the Health and Human Services Commission and Department of State Health Services, also provides a list of resources for schools that aid in mental health, including suicide prevention. These include programs from the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Also affected by mental health challenges are the staff members who educate and keep the schools running. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened a lot of the stresses of maintaining a classroom. According to NCES, school staff reported that incidents such as the ones listed below have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic:

  • Student misconduct (56%)
  • Rowdiness outside of the classroom (49%)
  • Acts of disrespect toward teachers and staff (48%)
  • Prohibited use of electronic devices (42%)

On top of this, 79% of public schools stated the need for more support for student/staff mental health, according to NCES.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or 988—along with its website—is a 24/7 service available for everyone. This lifeline connects people with skilled crisis workers who can provide support and resources that can help. Again, this service is available to everyone, including veterans through the Veterans Crisis Line, which is also 988.

If you have not already, be sure to check out Part 1 of this dive into public schools and mental health for National Suicide Prevention Month.