Dear Adult Leaders: Access to Mental Health Resources Should Be a Right, Not a Privilege
This article is a part of a series called "Dear Adult Leaders: Listen to Youth," which aims to amplify the voices of students in the national dialogue on education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in this series write open letters to adult leaders and policymakers, sharing their experiences and offering insights on how the American education system should adapt. This week’s focus is on the importance of supporting students’ mental wellbeing during these challenging times.
To the Missouri state legislators,
I am writing to urge the legislature to allocate dedicated funding for mental health workers in all schools. Our state has already experienced a $133 million reduction in K-12 education funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This leaves schools with limited resources to support students when they need it the most. As the pandemic continues to impact students’ mental health, it is crucial for every school to have at least one social worker or counselor who can regularly check in with students.
There is no denying that the pandemic has had severe negative effects on everyone, particularly teenagers. Prolonged isolation from friends and peers can lead to feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Students who are currently engaged in remote learning spend long hours in front of their computers with minimal human interaction. This can have serious consequences for their physical and mental wellbeing.
Social media further exacerbates these challenges. Teenagers have easy access to platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, where they are exposed to their friends’ seemingly perfect lives. In reality, everyone is facing their own set of difficulties, even if they don’t share it on social media. Students who are at high risk for COVID-19 or have vulnerable family members often isolate themselves even more, and constant exposure to news and updates on social media can worsen their situation.
By allocating a specific fund, students can have access to the mental health resources and support they deserve. This is especially critical for schools located in low-income neighborhoods, as these communities have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
This issue is deeply personal to me because, through my nonprofit organization, the Literacy Initiative, I have had the privilege of working with thousands of low-income youth worldwide over the past few years. Our after-school programs before COVID-19 showed significant improvements in students’ reading skills and overall morale. However, witnessing the impact of the coronavirus on education, especially in disadvantaged communities, has been heart-wrenching.
For many students, school is their safe haven, and COVID-19 has taken that away from them. The lack of access to technology, such as WiFi and computers, creates additional challenges, putting students in difficult situations.
In addition to funding, schools need resources to establish student-led mental health committees. These committees can collaborate with social workers and counselors to implement projects and initiatives that promote mental health on a school-wide level. Including student perspectives is crucial for the success of any mental health-related initiative since students are more likely to understand their peers’ experiences compared to social workers or counselors. Often, those who are struggling the most may not actively seek help, making it essential for outreach projects to reach all students, not just a select few.
Teenagers are the future leaders of our country, and it is crucial to prioritize mental health initiatives that specifically support teens from underrepresented and underserved communities.
All students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, should have equal access to mental health resources. Access to these resources should be seen as a right, not a privilege. It is time to take action to ensure that the next generation of young leaders can thrive and make a positive impact on the world. This starts by providing all young people with the necessary resources to live their best lives.
Agha Haider, 17
St. Louis, Missouri
This series, which aims to amplify the voices of American youth, is partly sponsored by Pure Edge, Inc., a foundation that equips educators and learners with strategies for managing stress and developing social, emotional, and academic competencies.
Related: Sign up for newsletter.
It is your assignment to rephrase the entire text using more eloquent language and ensuring its uniqueness while maintaining natural English. The provided text is as follows: