Solving the Mental Health Crisis From the Ground Up

The promise of social and emotional learning.

The numbers are staggering. Prior to COVID, an estimated 1 in 5 children in the USA were known to be suffering from a mental, developmental, or behavioral disorder.  Unsurprisingly, the pandemic exacerbated the mental health crisis nationwide among children, adolescents, and young adults. In 2021, a coalition of pediatric health experts declared the crisis in child and adolescent mental health to be a national emergency.

The peer-reviewed monthly medical journal published by the American Medical Association—JAMA Pediatrics—recently published findings that suicides among adolescents increased markedly during the pandemic. Fourteen states participated in the study based on data collected from 2015 to 2020. The study found that the “…Proportion of suicides among adolescents has shifted markedly and heterogeneously across the 14 participating states.”

The root causes of the mental health crisis are layered, complex, and harder to solve where inequities are firmly entrenched. The rise of social media use and its impact on children has been cited as a factor, along with the shattering of cultural norms and deepening divisions. 

While young learners keenly felt the disruptions caused by the pandemic, educators, too, have been touched by the same events. Many are facing their own mental health challenges, as teacher resignation rates continue to rise across the country.

Where there is persistent inequality, the challenges only intensify. So, what can educators do to effect change? Does change come from the top down, or the bottom up?  Perhaps the answer lies in the middle, where educators find a balance between their own self-care and their capacities for empathy, understanding, and ultimately, teaching. 

In episode six, podcast host Hayley Spira-Bauer welcomes three education thought leaders who share fascinating insights about how social and emotional learning (SEL), shifting cultural trends, and key policy decisions are shaping the way forward through our unprecedented times. Hayley’s guests are: 

Jeff Patterson, founder and CEO of Gaggle, the leading education tech company devoted to helping K-12 districts manage student safety, avoid tragedies, and save lives. 

Brandon Clayton, renown speaker and educator who shares experiences from his own journey to inspire young people nationwide to be the best version of themselves.

CJ Casciotta, founder of Ringbeller, a media and tech company providing interactive edutainment focused on social-emotional learning for grades K-12 and early childhood learners.