boy with mask sitting on front steps of school

Mental Health Matters

(January 13, 2023) When you think of your health, what first comes to mind? For many – if not most of us, it is probably our physical health. Am I eating healthy and exercising? Am I getting enough sleep? Have I scheduled my annual check up? All of these questions are important but there is another question we should be asking that is equally important to our overall health: how is my mental health? Factors like diet, sleep, and exercise can impact our mental health. Therefore, there is a reciprocal relationship between our physical health and mental health. Our mental health, which includes our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, has a tremendous impact on our overall health and well-being. Maintaining good mental health can often be a challenge, especially during difficult times. 

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite a difficult time for everyone. More than half of Americans report that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health. This staggering statistic includes far more children and teens than anyone would like to admit. Consequently, we are facing a youth mental health crisis. With the pandemic exacerbating a decade-long rise in youth mental health concerns, it is more important than ever that young people have safe, non judgemental adults they feel comfortable approaching about tough topics. In addition to parents, caregivers, and family friends being there for youth to talk to, we know that there are many other trusted adults that come in contact with children and youth. Oftentimes, educators are the first line of defense in combating some of the issues that their students are facing. But with all of the other demands on educators, they cannot be tasked with supporting the mental health needs of their students alone, especially as they report trying to manage their own mental health challenges. 

Schools are in a unique position to provide support and treatment to students in their buildings with mental health professionals and resources specifically trained and designed for this purpose. The problem is, there is a workforce shortage within the mental health field, so children and teens are being underserved. Allies for Children recognizes the vital role mental health plays in the well-being of children and will be focusing on this broad and complex issue area. We started doing some research and benchmarking earlier in 2022 which led to us writing a white paper titled “Addressing Mental Health in Schools”. We are putting the final touches on this paper which will serve as a jumping off point for much more work to come surrounding mental health. We will share some of the fantastic things that are already going on in the region in future blogs. 

Although Mental Health Awareness month is in May, Allies for Children will be focusing on mental health every day of every month. Stay tuned for more information as we dive further into this work. 

Heather Wilkes, Allies for Children Policy Manager