Voices’ Blog

Toward Wellness: The Status of School-Based Mental Health Initiatives in Virginia Report

Posted:  -  By: Cat Atkinson

Virginia is 48th in the nation for youth access to mental health services, and young people are continuing to speak out about the lack of services and support in their communities and in their schools. In 2021, the Virginia Youth Survey identified that 38% of surveyed Virginia high school students stated they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 weeks or more, and 21% of respondents seriously considered attempting suicide and self-harmed.

Nationally, in 2022, the AAKOMA Project identified that at least half of Youth and Young Adults of Color in their research reported experiencing moderate to severe depression or anxiety. Some specifics: 53.3% of Black youth in the study experience moderate or severe depressive symptoms, 26.9% of Multiracial youth responded that they cut or self-harmed themselves in some way, 58.9% of Latino/e youth in the study experienced mild to severe anxiety, and 83.3% of Latino/e Nonbinary and Transgender youth experienced moderate to severe anxiety.

Behind these statistics are real young people suffering from systems that do not meet their needs. As the Commonwealth continues to reckon with the realities of the youth mental health crisis, attempting to find a clear solution to a multi-faceted issue is challenging. However, the reality that Virginia’s young people deserve systems that support their mental health and well-being has not changed.

One possible solution to address the youth mental health crisis, paired with continued state efforts to support our mental health workforce and address the shortage, is school-based mental health (SBMH) services and programming. SBMH services are preventative in nature and seek to shift the prioritization of healing before a crisis occurs.

Toward Wellness: The Status of School-Based Mental Health Initiatives in Virginia is a comprehensive report that examines the state of mental health services in Virginia’s K-12 public schools. Authored by Cat Atkinson, Policy Analyst, this report:

  1. Answers critical questions about what SBMH is and how these services can be funded,
  2. Provides context on the status of SBMH initiatives in the state of Virginia,
  3. Shares insights from the 2024 legislative session and current outcomes regarding SBMH, and
  4. offers considerations and recommendations for community members, legislators, and state agencies on how we can build out a statewide SBMH system that will center and meet the needs of Virginia’s young people.

SBMH programs are an opportunity to advance equity in mental health care, overcome the many barriers young people face to receiving services, and be intentional about addressing the unique needs of young people within each unique local community.

We hope this provides insight into the world of preventative mental health services, spurs conversations and energy toward improving Virginia’s youth mental health system, and informs how we as individuals, communities, organizations, and leaders can create a Virginia that centers healing.

Read the full report below or download here.

Download here.

We’re thrilled to announce a webinar series to coincide with the release of our school-based mental health report. Our first session will be on May 30th at 1 PM, featuring a discussion with our CEO Rachael Deane and Policy Analyst Cat Atkinson, who will delve into the report’s key findings. Register to join us using this link.


Read More Blog Posts