Strategies for Supporting the Mental Health Well-being of Students

January 24, 2020

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Title: Supporting the Mental Health Well-Being of High School Students

Authors: Michelle Croft, Shannon Hayes, and Raeal Moore

Source: ACT

Colleges and universities across the country are seeing increased demand for student mental health services. A recent report released by ACT, “Supporting the Mental Health Well-Being of High School Students,” sheds light on incoming students’ expectations for support and services at their post-secondary institution. Understanding the traditional first-year student’s exposure to and experience with using mental health services in high school may inform higher education’s approach to providing these services to college students.

As part of a series of student surveys on school safety, ACT surveyed over 5,000 college-bound high school students who registered for the February 2019 ACT® test about their access to mental health services and professionals at their high schools.

They found that almost all students were aware that they had access to some type of health professional at their high school, such as a school counselor, social worker, or school nurse.

Only two-thirds of students (67 percent) felt that these health professionals were available for mental health services, such as support with drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, or anger management.

Students who attended high school in suburban areas (71 percent) were more likely to indicate they had access to school-based mental health services than urban or rural students (68 and 65 percent respectively).

More than half of students (54 percent) felt they could reach out to a teacher for mental health support, while only 40 percent would reach out to a school counselor. When these responses were separated out by race and ethnicity, high school students of color were less likely to feel they could reach out to adults: only 48 percent of African American students felt they could reach out to a teacher, while 57 percent of White students were comfortable doing so.

The report also contains examples of promising practices enacted by K-12 schools and systems across the United States to increase mental health services access for their students, particularly those underserved by existing services. Many of these strategies may also benefit students at the postsecondary level, such as providing mental health awareness education for students and faculty and training educators in mental health first aid and/or cultural competency.

For more information, read the full report here.

–Shannon Hayes

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