Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for those age 10 to 14. The consequences of rising rates of anxiety and depression among our kids are very real and very serious. Youth mental health has been declining for the past decade but reached crisis levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently called worsening youth mental health as the “crisis of our time,” with 40 percent of American high schoolers saying they feel persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. A Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) model for in-school student mental health services is a clinically supported strategy that provides every student support based on their appropriate need for care. Three tiers make up the overall MTSS mental health pyramid of support, each representing an increasing level of treatment and services.
The youth mental health crisis has worsened in the past decade, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-four percent of American high schoolers say they feel persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. That number rises to three in five for teenage girls. As discussed in our previous article, prevention and building capacity within districts to recognize early signs of mental illness is key to getting ahead of the crisis. But implementing long-term mental health services in schools to support the influx of students struggling with various trauma responses cannot be overlooked. Both are vital pieces of the school-based mental health care puzzle.
To tackle the student mental health crisis, we need to get ahead of emerging mental health conditions before they reach their peak. Students with the most severe mental health concerns are not the only ones who need support. As school leaders, we might not be able to alleviate the fundamental triggers that degrade student mental health. But we can cultivate well-regulated, trauma-informed classrooms and build capacity within our districts and staff to help students thrive.
Our children are facing a mental health epidemic. From 2009 to 2021, the share of American high school students who say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 44 percent. This is the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded.