80% Support Reassigning 30 Minutes of Traditional Classroom Subject Hours to Mental Health Ed
Research from Telosity by Vinaj Ventures, a fund that invests in early-stage companies working to improve mental health and well-being in young people, reveals that an overwhelming majority of Americans – 85% – agree their child(ren) would benefit from mental health services. Over two-thirds (67%) believe mental health education – such as learning to cope with stress and dealing with social anxiety – should be provided to children in school.
With the new school year beginning, the mental health of the nation’s youngest citizens is top of mind for parents, teachers, school administrators, and government officials, especially since many students will be returning to in-person learning for the first time since 2020. While there isn’t a consensus as to when to begin teaching mental health education, a whopping 82% believe it should begin prior to high school, with 15% citing kindergarten as the time to begin and 20% citing grades 1-3. A hefty 80% of Americans support reassigning 30 minutes of traditional classroom subject hours to mental health education.
Recent studies paint a distressing picture of the rise in mental health challenges in children, even as young as eight years old. Prior to the pandemic, mental health disorders showed a steady climb over the last 10 years, according to emergency room data. Experts cite numerous reasons for this, such as social media, bullying, abuse, poverty, and racism. The stressors brought on by the pandemic – increased social isolation, remote school learning, and, in the worst cases, the death of a parent or other relative – have made the situation even more dire for young people.
Survey respondents view social media as a main culprit for this increase, with 88% agreeing that to some extent social media and technology allow for bullies to follow children virtually into their homes.
“As the emotional long haul of the pandemic chugs on, youth mental health deserves the same attention as that of workers, athletes and celebrities,” says Allyson Plosko, Director of Telosity by Vinaj Ventures. “Children don’t typically have the resources that adults can access and often don’t know who to turn to when they are in distress. Education is not only key to destigmatizing mental health conditions, it can also be a conduit for giving children concrete information on how and where to get help.”
Mental Health Stigmas Are Alive and Well
Despite more young celebrities publicly sharing their battles with depression and anxiety, the stigma of having a mental health condition remains. Americans cite a variety of activities that could be leveraged to help dismantle that stigma for children, including talking with friends, colleagues and loved ones, education, and changes to government policies. More than a quarter of Americans (27%) believe there will always be a stigma around mental health conditions.
By a large margin (61%) and across all age groups, Americans believe that “everyone” bears responsibility to destigmatize mental health. However, respondents were divided over which individuals should take the lead in helping to destigmatize mental health challenges:
- Gen Z said parents should have the most responsibility (22.9%), vs. therapists (15.3%) and schools (12.7%)
- The 25-34 age group also said parents should have the most responsibility (17.8%), vs. therapists (16.4%) and schools (5.5%)
- Older cohorts –those between the ages of 35 and 64 – believe therapists should take the lead. The greatest gap is reflected in the 35-44 demographic, who said that therapists bear the most responsibility (16.3%), vs. parents (6.5%) and schools (6.1%)
- The 45-54 cohort also indicated therapists should take the lead (14.9%) , vs. parents (7.1%) and schools (1.8%)
Along with mental health education, Americans believe an on-staff therapist at school (46%); the option to take a 15-minute mental health break (42%); a mental health call with parent or loved one (37%); or an after-school club focused on mental health (32%) are all methods that can help children cope with social anxiety, stress and depression.
“The survey is our proof point for why Telosity by Vinaj Ventures was launched,” says Anish Srivastava, CEO and founder of Vinaj Ventures and Telosity. “Our singular focus is to invest in companies that are harnessing technology to improve mental well-being in young people. We are experiencing a mental health crisis in this country that will not just magically disappear. Despite the rise in prevalence and risk, mental health prevention and support services remain stigmatized and inaccessible for young people and their parents. We have to do better. The companies we are funding are addressing these gaps by developing affordable and scalable solutions.”