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School counselor supports a young student during a group session

Protecting our school communities with Mental Health Supports

The current mental health crisis in schools, colleges, and universities continues to impact both students and educators across the country.

Our schools are the center of our communities and should be the safest, most just places. Our students can’t learn if they aren’t well. Increasingly, that means our students and educators must receive the mental health support they need, and schools must have the resources, staffing, and programs necessary to effectively address the challenges they face.  By working together, we can help protect our school communities and get our students the help they need. As the leading champion of America’s public schools, NEA promotes solution-oriented advocacy to bring much-needed mental health support to students and educators. 

Featured Micro-credential: Adult Social Emotional Learning

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions (CASEL, 2023).

This set of micro-credentials describes how five core social and emotional competencies are relevant in the daily lives of educators and ways to continually develop areas of competence as adults.

Learn more about the stack

Learn more about micro-credentials and how to get started

Background on the Scale of the Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic increased stress among students, as well as educators grappling with being there for their students while coping with challenges of their own. However, this mental health crisis did not begin with the pandemic.  

Before the pandemic, the CDC tracked that from 2009 and 2019, high school students’ reports of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased from 26.1% to 36.7%.  And nearly 1 in 5 children had a mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, but only 20% of them received care from a mental health provider.  

Now things have gotten even worse because of the devastation of COVID-19. For our students, more than 140,000 have lost a caregiver, with youth of color disproportionately affected. For our educators, a survey of U.S. public sector workers released in October found that K-12 public school educators were the most likely profession to report higher levels of anxiety, stress and burnout – and 55% are ready to leave the profession early

We are in the midst of a crisis. It has become even more of an imperative to act with real solutions--more counselors, more resources and more support for students, educators, and their families.

Get Smart — A Deep Dive on Mental Health

enrichment activities student stress

Study: Too Many Enrichment Activities Harm Mental Health

The time students spend on so-called enrichment activities—tutoring, sports, school clubs and even homework—is creating too much stress while underdelivering on academic benefits.
college faculty and mental health

The Mental Health Crisis Among Faculty and College Staff

High rates of anxiety, depression, and stress are prevalent on campuses.
compassion fatigue in teachers

‘My Empathy Felt Drained’: Educators Struggle With Compassion Fatigue

With mental health in the national spotlight, experts worry that the impact of compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress on educators is being left out of the conversation.
suicide prevention in school

Educators Can Play a Role in Preventing Student Suicide

Teachers and support staff know that welcoming, safe, and supportive learning spaces that are accepting of all cultures, languages, and identities help students do better in school. They can also help save lives.
SEL in schools

The Truth About SEL? It Works

Support for social and emotional learning remains strong. But schools and educators should never stop championing its importance.

For Educators and Students

photo of educator sitting in a circle with a diverse group of students

Trauma-informed practices

Trauma deeply affects the mental health of students of all ages—learning more deeply about trauma-informed pedagogy can help educators design a healing-centered learning environment.
Social and emotional learning

Resources on Social Emotional Learning

Strategies for educators to manage stress, practice self-care, and build SEL skills with their students.
Diverse Students in Library

Restorative Practices

Introduce restorative practices to provide a positive, effective alternative to exclusionary discipline.
Educator Virtual Learning

Resilient and Ready

Practicing resiliency in the education community.
photo of Latina educator holding a clipboard in front of a bus

Resources on Self-Care

Trainings and webinar for education support professionals to help avoid burnout, listen to your body, and practice wellness skills.
Illustration inspired by book cover

What Educators Can Do to Help Dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline

A new book spotlights the voices leading the movement for restorative practices and away from a system that criminalizes Black and Brown students.
woman collaborating online

Resources From Our Partners

For more information and help, check out these resources from other organizations.
Six students exercise led by a teacher in PE class

How PE Boosts Student Mental Health

Through exercise and building skills to build confidence, physical education promotes student well-being in a variety of ways.


Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has been a hot topic lately, but what is SEL and how can educators use these practices to enable better learning and create a more welcoming and safe environment for all students? On this episode, Dr. Bloodine Barthelus, Director of Practice Innovation at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) gives us an SEL primer.

Resources for Families & Communities

National Children's Grief Awareness Month

Resources from NEA

Support your child's social and emotional health with these resources from NEA and its partners.
school counselor

Mental Health in Schools

Learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics Supporting Mental Health in Schools Project.
ESP helping student with their mask

National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments Resources

Information and resources to keep students safe from violence, bullying, and harassment, and the influence of substance use.
young students walking outside school

School Safety

The National Association of School Psychologists developed a Guidance-at-a-Glance series for families and communities.
blurred photo of teacher walking in school hallway

Violence Prevention Guide

Information and resources from the Centers for Disease Control.


Grief is affecting so many more Americans than usual, including our students. Schools need to be prepared to support students who have lost a loved one, but how can they do it? Kate Wilcox is a high school librarian in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who took it upon herself to answer this question by starting a grief support group for students who’d experienced loss. Listen to her story on our podcast below.

Resources for Local Unions

educators at a table for collective bargaining

Bargaining for the Common Good

Use the bargaining process to get mental health benefits for educators and students
A child walks to school

American Rescue Plan

The American Rescue Plan includes nearly $170 billion in dedicated public education funding, money that can be used to hire more school custodians, nurses and counselors.
student counseling

Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act unlocks over $1 billion in additional funding for mental health and other services. Here's how your state can maximize support for students and educators.
mental health resources

Bargaining and Advocacy Tactics

Use these bargaining and advocacy strategies to improve mental health support for our members.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.