Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.
School counselor supports a young student during a group session

Protecting our school communities with Mental Health Supports

The COVID-19 pandemic did not create the mental health crisis in schools, colleges, and universities, but it has exacerbated the problem for both students and educators.

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. 

Background on the Scale of the Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has 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 and will not end with it either.  

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. Before the pandemic, many in the halls of power glossed over what was happening, barely even paying lip service to it. Ignoring it, coupled with the weight and toll of the pandemic has only exacerbated things for our students and our educators are carrying too much of this load. 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

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.
mental health bill signing delaware

How Delaware Educators Won Mental Health Supports for Students

They partnered with lawmakers and told the truth about what's happening in their classrooms—activism that could be a model for states everywhere.
bus driver covid

Education Support Professionals Often First to See Student Mental Health Struggles

ESPs recognize patterns and rhythms in student behavior classroom educators may miss.
blurred photo of teacher walking in school hallway

Violence, Threats Against Teachers, School Staff Could Hasten Exodus from Profession

A new survey reveals that threats and physical attacks by students and parents have increased since the start of COVID. Unless the resources needed to improve school climate and safety are provided, more educators may walk away from their jobs.
Educator Erin Castillo outside her school building

Beyond Burnout: What Must Be Done to Tackle the Educator Shortage

The root cause of educator exhaustion and frustration is a lack of support and respect, not a perceived inability to manage stress. To prevent a mass exodus from the profession, district and elected leaders across the nation need to address this crisis now.

For Educators and Students

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.
Woman with a yellow shirt and grey cardigan with curly brown hair smiles in a library while holding a book.

Cultural Responsiveness and Equity

Resources for schools, mental health providers, communities, families, and students from the National Center for School Mental Health
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.


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 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.

Resources for Local Unions

Bargaining for The Common Good 

Bargaining has evolved in recent years to have an even stronger community and student focus. As a result, NEA affiliates and employers can prioritize many of the mental health issues affecting both students and educators.  

Bargaining for the Common Good is an innovative approach to bargaining through which NEA affiliates use contract or advocacy campaigns to organize local stakeholders around demands that benefits not just educators, but also students and their families. Some sample provisions relating to social and emotional supports include: 

  • Establishing and providing trauma training to help identify trauma in students 

  • Create or expand crisis teams in every school building to monitor and assist with social/emotional health 

  • Increase staffing of counselors and nurses 

  • Ensure mental health professionals are able to perform their primary job functions instead of working on administrative duties 

  • Partner with local medical and mental health professionals to provide full range of services to students and employees 

  • Track long term effects of the pandemic on students including changes in grades, graduation rates, and absenteeism 

  • Prioritize stress counseling 

American Rescue Plan Funding 

Since the pandemic began last year, the federal government has enacted rescue legislation providing unprecedented levels of support for education. NEA believes that these funds should be used to advance equity, close opportunity gaps for vulnerable students, support the educator workforce, and protect the health and safety of educators, students, and their families. 

The American Rescue Plan includes nearly $170 billion in dedicated public education funding. That money can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces to comply with social distancing; modernize HVAC systems; hire more school custodians, nurses and counselors; and facilitate social distancing on transportation services with additional buses and drivers. The funding can also be used to add supports to address student trauma and learning loss. 

Whether bargaining is permitted in your state or not, it is vital that state and local education associations raise educator voices and assert their professional authority to ensure that all stakeholders, including educators, parents, and community, provide input and be a part of the decision-making processes. NEA created a full guide on strategies for locals to fully utilize the ARP funds effectively

Child is vaccinated

Vaccine Resources

We've collected information and resources to help educators and parents make an informed decision about how best to protect our students.
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.