Approximately just 52% of public schools in the United States conduct assessments to identify mental health disorders in students, according to a study by Washington State University researchers.
However, the availability of these assessments varies by region. Schools in rural areas are 19% less likely to offer these assessments, while suburban schools are 21% less likely and schools in towns are 11% less likely to provide them. This means that students in these areas may be less likely to receive diagnoses and treatment for mental health issues.
According to the study, researchers concluded that funding and access to qualified mental health professionals are major barriers to providing school-based mental health services. However, this may not be the complete picture. The U.S. Department of Education has announced that it will provide $280 million in grant funding to schools through two programs as part of the first wave of a total of $1 billion to be spent on youth mental health programs over the next five years. This funding, which is in addition to the billions of dollars already spent on education, is being made available through the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. These resources may help to alleviate some of the barriers to providing mental health services in schools.
It is unacceptable that, despite the significant investment of $764.7 billion or $15,120 per pupil annually in local, state, and federal funds for K-12 public schools in the U.S. during the 2021-2022 school year, nearly half of these schools are unable to prioritize the mental health and well-being of their students. This is particularly concerning given that U.S. test scores reached record lows in 2022. All students deserve to receive the support they need, and it is essential that schools work to improve and prioritize the mental health resources they offer.