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If Corporate America Cares about Mental Health, Shouldn’t our Schools?

Dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic, companies across the US have experienced a cultural shift working to create a healthier and more appealing environment for their employees. The greatest focus in organizations succeeding in these efforts? Hint: It’s not the pizza parties.

From virtual work to the great resignation, employers have been forced to take a deep dive into understanding what it is exactly that retains employees. At a basic level, it is a better work-life balance, better pay, and increased benefits to access more than just medical and dental. Mental wellness is now on their radar.

A study conducted by Deloitte showed that “over 90 percent [of CEOs] said they had taken action to support the mental health and well-being of their employees” during the pandemic, and “98 percent of CEOs agreed that employee mental health and well-being will be a priority even after the pandemic is over.” By providing resources to cope with stress and increase mental wellness, employers have seen boosts in productivity, innovation, and overall satisfaction of the workplace environment from employees. 

From executives talking about their own struggles with mental health, to protocols being written to include mental health breaks in paid time off, subtle but meaningful changes began to take place during the pandemic in corporate America. Providing resources to foster that wellness has already shown to produce better leaders, healthier relationships, and professional success. Mental health is the largest tell of a successful company and the happiness of its employees. 

So what does that mean when we look at our schools? According to the National Association of School Psychologists, “mental and behavioral health problems not only affect students’ short-term classroom engagement but also interfere with long-term development of positive relationships and work-related skills.” Not only do our children have a difficult time in school due to mental health-related issues, but their futures are at stake even more. 

Nearly 20% of youth in the United States have suffered from some form of mental, behavioral, or emotional health issue each year according to the Center for Disease Control, and yet only half of those students report having received treatment. Another report done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that among the 3.8 million young people aged 12-17 who reported a major depressive episode in the last year, nearly 60 percent did not receive any treatment. Out of those who did receive treatment, over a third had to seek resources outside of school.

Mental wellness starts in the classroom and prioritizing the health and success of our children and young adults should be at the forefront of every movement. Whether it is innovative, financial, or professional success, imagine what COULD happen if we make mental wellness and strength a priority for our youth. Mentorship programs, professional coaching, and most importantly, destigmatizing the way we approach mental health is the catalyst towards building on our future as all Americans.

Nicoletta Kolpakov is a member of the Young Invincibles National Youth Advisory Board representing Colorado and New York who has worked in public service for over half a decade in both political campaigns and legislation. She is a former member of the National Board for Mental Health advising Well Being Trust, Active Minds, and Young Invincibles. She is also a J.D. candidate at New York Law School.