Montgomery County, Maryland, students told leaders and school officials that more mental health support and resources are needed for students in the public schools.
Council member Tom Hucker hosted a Zoom session Wednesday night giving students the opportunity to speak out on the issue of mental health.
“Coming straight from 18 months, for the vast majority of us, of virtual learning into an in-person environment is really difficult and comes with a lot of challenges that, I think, many of us never expected,” said Hana O’Looney, a junior at Richard Montgomery High School and student member of the Board of Education. “Next to school lunches, the most important issue that basically every student brings up to me is mental and the fact that we are truly in a mental health crisis,” she said.
School officials said that the school system faced a mental health crisis among students before COVID-19 hit and things have only gotten worse.
Hucker highlighted one factor recently that is weighing on some students’ emotional well-being.
“Incredibly, we’ve lost nine students and recent graduates since January to suicide, overdose, homicide and other causes — nine students and recent graduates. Each of those precious lives has an impact on the community. Those deaths hit their schools very, very hard and our school communities need to feel supported,” Hucker said.
A student pointed out that many students haven’t had a normal school year in nearly two years.
“Students should not be locked up in their rooms or stressed out about homework all the time. They should be able to have time to socialize and have a well-balanced life,” said a student who identified herself as Talia.
Some students said that later school start times would help sleep-deprived, stressed out high schoolers.
Public school officials outlined an array of mental health resources available to Montgomery County Public School students, but agreed that more mental health counselors are needed. However, the county is competing with other school systems to hire more, amid a shortage of those available.