Mental Health, Social-Emotional Learning, and School Safety

Students and school staff are struggling. Last year, 85 percent of principals and 73 percent of teachers reported experiencing job-related stress. By comparison, only 35 percent of adults working outside of the education field reported experiencing job-related stress. Oftentimes students’ mental health challenges manifest themselves as behavioral issues, putting further stress on educators who are already stretched too thin. Indeed, mental health, followed by bullying, are the greatest concerns among parents according to a Pew Research Center report, while a NPR/Ipsos poll last year found that 73 percent of parents believe their children could benefit from mental health counseling. School leaders are uniquely positioned to leverage trauma-informed strategies to address the enormous wave of social, emotional, and mental health needs among students. It is time for significant increased federal support to promote the well-being of educators and students in our nation’s schools. The emotional well-being of school communities is a critically important factor in the safety, security, and comprehensive success of students.

NAESP believes that:

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Principals must establish a positive school climate and culture that nurtures the emotional, mental, social, and physical safety of each member of the school community;

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Each child has the right to learn in school without interference from violence, including gun violence, and that school safety needs to be adequately funded by federal and state governments;

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Safe schools offer school-based mental health supports and ensure adequate funding and resources; and

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School counselors and mental health professionals should infuse prevention and intervention services into the learning process and integrate services provided through school-community partnerships.

NAESP recommends the following policies and legislation to support the health, safety, and well-being of students and staff:

  • Expand access to health care professionals and services
  • Increase the number and hiring of school counselors and other student support personnel
  • Promote strategies that enhance emotional well-being and resiliency

Take Action

Advocate for your students and school by going to the NAESP Advocacy Action Center to send a message to Congress about this important issue.

Did You Know?

As of November 2021, district leaders’ top three concerns out of the 11 listed were the mental health of students, teachers, and principals, respectively. Leaders’ concerns about student and staff mental health were more prevalent than concerns about student engagement, student discipline, student and teacher attendance, and declined enrollment.

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