High school educators expect that mental health issues will have a large impact on student learning this school year. Four in ten (41%) U.S. high school educators anticipate that both student anxiety about returning to in-person learning and students with pre-existing emotional or behavioral challenges experiencing exacerbated conditions will have “a lot” or “tremendous impact” on the quality of the students' learning, according to a new survey released today by the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health (the “Alliance”). The survey was conducted online with 552 high school educators in the U.S., which included high school teachers, counselors, social workers and administrators.
Significant findings from the survey include:
- Educators expect that students with pre-existing emotional or behavioral challenges returning with exacerbated conditions (41%) is the third most critical challenge to the quality of student learning this school year, after deficits in student learning (47%) and economic hardship (42%), and tied with anxiety about adjustment to in-person learning (41%).
- Half or fewer educators report that their school or district is “very or extremely prepared” to address any of these reemergence issues, and overall, educators are more likely to feel “very or extremely prepared” to address academic preparation (50%) than to address mental health-related challenges, whether students have pre-existing conditions (42%) or not (41%).
- Forty-one percent of educators say that the area where additional training and resources would be most helpful is in actively supporting students with emotional or behavioral challenges.
This data is the next phase of a recently launched Reemergence program, by the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health – a collaboration between Morgan Stanley, its Foundation and leading nonprofit members including the Child Mind Institute, the Jed Foundation, the Steve Fund, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, and the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. This multi-faceted program – which includes a national survey of U.S. teens, tip sheets, digital resources and a convening for educators – aims to provide support and resources for educators and families addressing children’s mental health issues for the 2021-2022 school year.
Based on these findings, the Alliance puts forward the following recommendations for high schools:
- Prepare for a different educational landscape. It will take time and encouragement for students to build back social skills and the capacity to focus, so have patience and set realistic expectations.
- Expect and address emotional, social and mental health needs. It will be important to maintain personal connections with students and watch for signs and symptoms of any emotional struggle over the course of weeks and months, so build in time to assess and address student readiness and support needs.
- Equip staff to notice and respond in functional and supportive ways to mental health needs. All faculty and staff should be educated to recognize signs of struggle and know how to reach out to offer support and to be knowledgeable about where to refer students for professional help when needed.
- Create spaces and opportunities for youth to process and understand their experience. Consider creating dedicated time, space, and techniques like journaling, talking circles, artistic expression, body movement, and interactive group and/or self-reflective activities to help students understand and sort through their experience.
- Focus on building connectedness. Make space and time for reacquaintance and social connection activities between students and between young people and staff, as many students may feel uncomfortable in high stimulus or high expectation environments.
- Establish connections with parents as early in the school year as possible. Parents are key allies in supporting students but will also benefit from resources and guidance about how to best support their children and, in some instances, their other family members or themselves.
- Prepare for an increased need in social support programs. As a result of employment challenges during the pandemic, schools may see an increase in the number of students registering for after and before school programs as well as free and reduced meals.
- Support staff needs. We have all been impacted by the pandemic and school staff are no exception. Schools should be mindful about creating spaces for staff to process and integrate their pandemic experience and be afforded the flexibility they may need to navigate challenges they may still be facing.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s educators have been asked to support students academically while also providing emotional, social and behavioral support during this challenging time,” said Joan Steinberg, President of the Morgan Stanley Foundation, and CEO of the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health’s Advisory Board. “The Alliance is committed to providing resources and tools to better prepare schools and educators to effectively support teen mental health during the school year ahead.”
For more detailed survey findings, please visit here.
*Morgan Stanley commissioned Fluent Research to survey 552 high school educators in the U.S. online from June 12-July 8, 2021. Educators included 322 high school teachers, 134 high school counselors, social workers, and nurses, and 96 district and high school administrators (superintendents and principals).
About Morgan Stanley
Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) is a leading global financial services firm providing investment banking, securities, wealth management, and investment management services. With offices in more than 41 countries, the Firm's employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions, and individuals. For more information about Morgan Stanley, please visit https://www.morganstanley.com/.
About Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children's Mental Health
The Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children's Mental Health brings together key leaders in the children's mental health space and combines the resources and reach of Morgan Stanley and its Foundation with the knowledge and experience of its distinguished nonprofit partner organizations. The Alliance helps strategically address children's mental health concerns and the far-reaching challenges of stress, anxiety and depression. For more information about the Alliance, visit www.morganstanley.com/mentalhealthalliance.
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