Cortese: The Critical Need for Comprehensive School Mental Health Resources


As many students return to their classrooms this season, parents, educators and lawmakers are rightly focused on efforts to address the learning losses suffered during the pandemic. But responding to the academic impacts brought on by the pandemic is only part of what is needed in our educational recovery.

There is no doubt that distance learning has had a significant impact on adolescent mental health, which for many students has been worsened by a variety of factors. Extracurricular and extracurricular programs including sports have been affected, students have faced isolation and lost critical bonds with their peers and many carry additional financial burdens as families face economic challenges. and food insecurity.

In an age where our physical health is discussed every day, we must ensure that our mental and behavioral well-being is also given the attention it deserves. And for students to cope, quick access and new sources of support at their school site is essential.

As a former school board member, I saw first-hand how school-based mental health interventions improved families’ ability to find and navigate resources, helped them advocate for their child, and to increase the academic success of students.

Steven Luo, a student at Evergreen Valley High School, said it best at this year’s 18th virtual “Sacramento Bus Trip for Education,” an event my office hosts every year to raise the voices of students:

“As a student, I can give you lots of anecdotes from friends and classmates who feel stressed, anxious or even depressed, but don’t have access to services. Seventy-nine percent of youth and young adults with mental health issues do not have access to care. Unfortunately, these resources are not always readily available or there are barriers to accessing them.

As noted by Luo, almost 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24. And the CDC found that mental health-related emergency room visits rose 24% for those aged 5 to 11 and 31% for those aged 12 to 17. Having widely accessible mental health support services is essential to the well-being of students.

My colleagues in the state legislature also make student mental health a priority.

The success of school-based mental health programs such as School-Linked Services in Santa Clara County, with accredited professionals available to meet the needs of students, serves as a model for mental health partnerships between counties and counties. California schools. And I’m proud to announce that a budget request I made this year for the increase in the Mental Health Student Services Act grant program has been approved and will help millions more. children and young people to receive mental health support and “related services” on their return to school and in everyday life.

This month, I was appointed a member of our state’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission and look forward to working in this role to continue to identify and come up with new ways to respond to challenges. mental health needs of our community, especially our student community. The pandemic has only further revealed that we need to invest more in mental health treatment, diversion and education programs in our state to serve people of all ages.

Before you go, I’d like to ask you to consider taking this small step: sharing with a loved one a personal story about the impact of COVID-19 on your mental health. Talking with others about mental health is an important way to break down any stigma and identify our own needs.

Senator Dave Cortese represents District 15 which encompasses much of Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley. Along with his accomplished career as a lawyer and business owner, Cortese previously served on the Santa Clara County Supervisory Board, San Jose City Council, and the East Side Union High School District Board of Trustees. .

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