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Friday, April 19
The Indiana Daily Student

education

The U.S. Department of Education releases resources, funding for mental health issues

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The U.S. Department of Education announced Oct. 19 a new resource guide is available to support child and student mental, behavioral, social and emotional health issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding was granted to meet the needs of children and students with mental health issues. The resource outlined seven challenges the country is facing, including issues such as ineffective implementation of practices and policy and funding gaps, and seven recommendations to face those challenges.

Eric Walsh-Buhi, IU School of Public Health professor, said it is close to impossible to address mental health challenges in schools without federal assistance.

“This funding is really important because we can’t do that work,” Walsh-Buhi said. “We can’t employ interventions with young people, can’t do programming and provide support and resources to young people without funding and without really high level resources being directed.”

Depression and anxiety are two mental health disorders that have greatly increased through the pandemic, Sheila Dennis, IU School of Social Work senior lecturer, said. 

“Even before the pandemic, we’ve been seeing a steady increase in mental health disorders in students,” Dennis said. “Especially depression and anxiety — the pandemic has exacerbated that.”

Schools can be one of the only mental health resources students have to turn to, Dennis said. At the college level, she said students’ mental health needs to be of utmost importance to ensure a good transition into jobs and life in the real world.

“It's really important that we continue to ensure that students are healthy so they can make those major life transitions,” Dennis said.

Janet R. Decker, IU School of Education and the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department associate professor, said mental health issues are extremely broad and are different for every person. She said these issues not only affect a student’s academic performance but also the rest of their life.

“Not only is there a lack of knowledge about mental health, but also just understanding how broad it is,” Decker said. “When you think about those three components — social, emotional, behavioral — that can affect a person’s academic life for sure but their overall well-being is really important to attend to as well.”

Decker said the mental health support systems at the college level were already struggling before the pandemic. This resource attempts to address concerns about how those support systems address issues and offers recommendations that can help, she said.

“At the university, there’s been increased student needs for mental health attention and support,” Decker said. “It’s happening in a system that was already overburdened before the pandemic, so schools and universities have increased their legal and ethical responsibilities to meet these mental health needs of students.”

This resource is bringing awareness to the needs of children and students that have come to light in recent years, she said. Schools across the country have recommendations for how to address these problems, such as enhancing mental health literacy and prioritizing wellness of each child, student, educator and provider, she said.

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