K-12 schools have been experiencing a mental health crisis for several years, with one in six U.S. youth living with a mental health condition. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the mental health struggles students face every day. According to the National Education Association (NEA), at least 10 million students ages 13–18 need professional help for a mental health condition—and this was before COVID-19 exacerbated student mental health issues. Preliminary evidence suggests that these numbers will only increase as a result of the pandemic, so students are in need of mental health support now more than ever.
Students are incredibly overwhelmed with pandemic-related stresses including anxieties about health and COVID-19, unemployment of family members, social isolation, academic struggles, unsafe home situations, a turbulent political and cultural landscape, and more. For students who have been learning remotely this semester, a lack of support from daily in-person interactions with teachers, staff, and peers is taking a significant toll on their mental health. Furthermore, a shortage of qualified school-based mental health professionals and services—particularly in the midst of pandemic funding struggles—has made it difficult for schools to address students’ growing mental health needs.
Many districts have partnered with Gaggle for years to protect students and identify those who may be experiencing mental health struggles, and throughout 2020, Gaggle has offered these districts a particularly valuable added level of security during the pandemic and distance learning. Schools have relied on Gaggle to catch important signs of social and emotional struggles as students learn from home, which has made it difficult for educators to identify these concerns.
Now, Gaggle has taken its endeavor to support student mental health and safety a step further by launching a new service that partners licensed therapists with students selected by schools or districts for ongoing teletherapy sessions. Gaggle Therapy offers a new level of support and protection for students and their mental well-being while eliminating gaps in access to therapy for students regardless of background or economic circumstance. Plus, teletherapy services are available to students whether schools are operating in-person, on a hybrid model, or entirely online.
Enrolling students in therapy is beneficial in many ways. Students can learn skills to manage their social and emotional health while receiving hands-on support for their struggles. In times of isolation, it’s critical to have someone to talk to. Weekly sessions with a therapist may be the only time students get to discuss their thoughts and emotions. Having someone who students can build a healthy relationship with is crucial to their development and can lead to improved outcomes in conflict resolution, communication, and self-esteem.
Today’s current climate has placed additional stressors on students who are particularly lacking in routine and connections to others, so it’s important to implement critical services to help support them as much as possible. Gaggle Therapy offers an opportunity for schools to address and directly support the mental health concerns they have already identified through Gaggle Safety Management in order to build a positive culture of mental health support and treatment.