Money From the Anti-Gun Violence Bill Will Go Toward Improving Student Mental Health

To address worsening mental health among young people across the country, the Biden administration will allocate more than $300 million in grants and awards for youth mental health services, funding the effort in part through the anti-gun violence bill passed by Congress in June.

According to ABC News, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services will direct $314 million annually toward bolstering youth mental health services in schools and emergency rooms, helping increase the number of staff in both. Part of the money will come from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the anti-gun violence bill passed in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, which included funding for increasing mental health services. 

The goal is to “raise the bar for student mental health,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a news release, by helping to recruit, train, and hire mental health professionals in U.S. schools.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has worsened for many young people. Experts have said that the stresses caused by the pandemic — like widespread illness, missing school, social isolation, and more — have affected mental health for many young people, particularly those who already experienced anxiety and depression. But beyond the pandemic and the everyday factors that can prompt anxiety in young people, in-school gun violence is also a very real threat. A 2018 survey of young people ages 15 to 21 found that 72% of respondents said fear of school shootings is a significant source of stress.

Despite the rising concern, there aren’t enough people in schools to help students cope. In the most recent Institute of Education Science’s School Pulse Panel, 61% of public schools reported that they felt they didn’t have enough mental health professionals to cover the need in their school. Only about half of public schools said that “they moderately or strongly agree that their school is able to effectively provide mental health services to all students in need.”

As they went back to school amid the pandemic in 2021, some young people told Teen Vogue that they were still struggling to process all that had happened over the last few years.

“It’s really hard to look forward to your future,” one teen said, “when your present is such a disaster.”

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