Previous Trends and the 2021/2022 School Year
During a typical school year, the rise in acute mental health decline among middle school and high school aged students begins to climb approximately 5 weeks after school starts, in October each year, spikes between November/December and again in Jan/Feb and remains persistent from Feb-April/May. Past and present data shows a direct correlation between this trend and the social, emotional, academic, family, economic stressors imposed by the beginning of a new school year.
During this time, ER’s, behavioral/psychiatric hospitals, and other acute care facilities fill to capacity and relevant care becomes scarce and often even unavailable as the demand for services exceeds the supply of providers.
This consistent trend, while traditionally alarming, will become catastrophic in the coming 2021/2022 school year as it will be compounded by additional pandemic-related, academic, family, and life stressors that will undoubtedly induce a more acute version of the consistent trend seen in previous years.
Post pandemic requirements and adjustment will bring complications stemming from two abbreviated and compromised school years, necessary adjustment to pre-pandemic, conventional learning/study/workload requirements, credit recovery, and traditional academic expectations. Both proactive and reactive intervention will be required to mitigate these unprecedented and upcoming problems.
What Does Suicide Prevention Really Look Like?
Existing suicide prevention measures are comprised primarily of reactive intervention intended to thwart an active suicide plan or attempt; however, this method of suicide prevention is crippling in two areas:
- it doesn’t identify or adequately intervene in the early signs of mental health decline
- it is only designed to and capable of reacting to it in the crisis phase
Provider Shortage and Default Damage Control
There are not and will not be for several years, enough licensed mental health clinicians to meet the current or the growing demand. Of 56 US States and territories, Utah is #53\56 in the misalignment between supply and demand.
School districts, school personnel, and educators remain systemically positioned to affect/influence support and provide the lower-level intervention necessary to combat these problems but remain the most ill-equipped, under-funded, under resourced, and systemically over-taxed (and by default end up as) providers of adolescent mental health support during the school day.