Dylan Peers McCoy, writing for WFYI, has a report on the need for mental healthcare among Indiana’s students and the political activists who are standing in the way. Per the article:
Mental health needs are at a peak among U.S. children and teens. A 2021 national survey found that nearly half of Indiana high schoolers felt persistently sad or hopeless — the highest rate in two decades of surveys. The same survey found that three out of every 10 Indiana students said they had considered suicide.
Yet despite the growing need, the kind of mental health support Dodds found at school is facing an onslaught of criticism from conservative parent activists. They say schools should focus on academic instruction. And they caution that mental healthcare and social and emotional learning may promote ideas that conflict with parents’ values.
“A small but loud and politically savvy group of — and it’s not just of parents, it’s really of political activists — are hijacking and spreading a lot of misinformation about mental health and social emotional learning in schools and really leveraging people’s fear,” said Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health.
In Indiana this year, Republicans passed a law that restricts school districts’ ability to survey students as to their mental health and emotional well-being. It has to do with a push against “social and emotional learning” which helps students with skills such as managing their emotions and feeling empathy for others.
I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong, but this right-wing push against social emotional learning seems to be kind of a buzzword driven thing. Activists sort of project their anxieties onto some jargon, turn it into something it’s not, and then crusade against the straw man they have created. In this situation, I think they’ve associated the approach to mental wellness with their usual uneasiness over things having to do with gender, race, and interpersonal relationships. So maybe they think they’re fighting a shadowy cabal of educators trying to convince their kid that they are really transgender or maybe that they should be ashamed of being white. But really they’re taking away a tool that might help kids feel a little less miserable as they’re learning to navigate the world.