From the Board
STATEMENT ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH EDUCATION AND TRAINING IN CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS
Released April 14, 2023
The Board of Directors of the San Diego Psychological Association (SDPA) on April 13, 2023 unanimously agreed that SDPA should take a public position on the issue of the importance of mental health education and training in schools. According to a 2021 global meta-analysis, the peak age of onset of mental disorders is 14.5 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in six U.S. children aged 2-8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, behavior problems and depression are the most common mental disorders diagnosed among children aged 3-17 years. For adolescents, depression, substance use and suicide are important concerns. There is evidence that depression and anxiety have increased over time. Ever having been diagnosed with either anxiety or depression among children aged 6-17 years increased from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011-2012. Researchers state that although promotion of good mental health, prevention and early intervention can be implemented over the life-span, the benefits are maximal when young people are targeted around the time of onset of mental disorders.
In 2022, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a report stressing the need for kids’ mental health to be addressed in schools. The report described the low rate of care for children with mental disorders and highlighted increases in mental health crises and shortages of children’s health resources produced by the COVID pandemic. Only 4% of clinical psychologists currently specialize in children and adolescents. School psychologists are also in short supply, leaving kids without enough support at school. It is the opinion of APA that, in addition to increased funding for mental health treatment for young people, longer-term solutions are needed to address their mental health problems, including, importantly, building mental health into school curricula and training teachers in prevention strategies to support students based on psychological science. The APA report cited efforts at the national and state levels to train teachers and others on the educational front lines on how to equip kids with basic social and emotional skills they need to cope with stress and anxiety and to survive. The report described efforts by teachers to incorporate formal mental health lessons into their curriculum with help from psychologists. Teachers are being trained to address trauma as many do not feel equipped to handle their students’ struggles.
SDPA supports the conclusions of the APA and believes that schools are ideally positioned to be centers of mental health education, healing, and support. As children and youth spend more hours at school than at home, the public education system is the most efficient and effective setting for providing mental health education to children and youth. SDPA applauds current efforts by legislators to increase mental health education and training for students and those that serve them in California school settings. SDPA wants to support and encourage further bipartisan legislative and public policy efforts to facilitate these goals.
Solmi, M. et al. (2022). Age at onset of mental disorders worldwide: large-scale meta-analysis of 192 epidemiological studies. Molecular Psychiatry, 27, 281-295.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
American Psychological Association (APA) (2022): Children’s mental health is in crisis: As pandemic stessors continue, kids’ mental health needs to be addressed in schools.
Pediatricians, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists and Children’s Hospitals Declare National Emergency in Children's Mental Health (October, 2021).
For more information, please contact the San Diego Psychological Association at firstname.lastname@example.org.