In a new report released by the CDC, school closures and distance learning have had a negative impact on student mental health. In a study titled “Mental Health, Suicidality and Connectedness Among High School Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” survey results showed that more than a third (37%) of students surveyed said they experienced poor mental health and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.

Vulnerable students fared worse: lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, and female youth reported greater levels of poor mental health, and over a third (36%) of students said they experienced racism before or during the pandemic.

These findings are generally consistent with the Surgeon General’s Advisory on youth mental health, noting that there were concerns prior to the pandemic that have been exacerbated during the ongoing public health crisis.

As Congress continues to debate next steps in addressing mental health needs, it should be noted that the CDC concludes that comprehensive strategies that improve feelings of connectedness with others in the family, in the community, and at school might foster improved mental health among teens during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Students who felt connected to adults and peers at school were less likely to report persistent sadness or hopelessness (35% vs. 53%), seriously considering suicide (14% vs. 26%), or attempting suicide (6% vs. 12%).

Successful legislative solutions to this crisis will likely cross sectors and require collaboration among mental health, education, and child welfare professionals, among others.