Getting Back-to-School Ready and Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Students

Students are about to return to the classroom. Educational leaders aren’t just stocking their classrooms with supplies, they’re also increasing efforts to support student well-being given the surge in mental health issues.

A 2022 survey revealed that 7 in 10 public schools have seen a rise in the number of children seeking mental health services. Most (76%) have said that educators and staff have concerns about depression, anxiety, and trauma in students since the start of the pandemic.

Back-to-school is a fresh start; an opportunity to embrace new programs and to set students up for success from the beginning. So, what are schools doing? Here’s a look at how schools across the country are supporting student mental and emotional health this fall.

Expanding Mental Health Programs and Education

In recent years, the US Surgeon General issued a rare Advisory to highlight the urgent need of addressing youth mental health. In it, he urged districts and schools to “expand social and emotional learning programs and other evidence-based approaches that promote healthy development.”

Kognito’s Mental Health & Well-being Suite addresses student mental health using practice-based learning in a safe environment. Through role-play with virtual humans, educators and students learn how to recognize warning signs, reach out to those experiencing emotional distress, and connect them to the appropriate resources when needed.

Many of our solutions align with the recommendations provided by the US Surgeon General Advisory, particularly the following as outlined in the report:

  • Learn how to recognize signs of change in mental and physical health among students, including trauma and behavior changes.
  • Provide a continuum of support to meet student mental health needs, including evidence-based prevention practices and trauma-informed mental health care.

Learn more about our comprehensive library of evidence-based products that are highly rated by 94% of surveyed educators would recommend to others at

Utilizing Federal and State Funding to Bring Mental Health Training to Students and Educators

There’s a heightened demand for mental health-focused professionals in school settings. This spring, the Biden-Harris administration recently announced more than $95 million in awards across 35 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need school districts.

Every district and school should have the opportunity to implement programs that create a connected, supportive environment that fosters mental health and wellness, resiliency and enables students to thrive. Download our 2023 PK-12 Funding Guide to review a comprehensive list of grants that support school training efforts as well as how Kognito meets the requirement of each grant.

Adding Excusable Mental Health Absences

Nearly 30% of schools said they made changes to their daily or yearly academic calendars last year. Canceling classes and designating “mental health days” for teachers and students was controversial, because it caused stress on families needing to scramble to find care.

To mitigate this issue, some schools will give students mental health days off that they can use as needed. For example, the state of Illinois unanimously passed legislation in 2022 that allows K-12 public school students to have five excused mental health-related absences per year. In 2019, Hailey Hardcastle, recent college graduate and mental health advocate, and a group of her high school peers helped to pass House Bill 2191, which allows K–12 students to take mental health days in the same way they would take an excused physical sick day. This is now a law in 11 states and 9 other states have proposed it at this time.

Creating Safe Spaces for Children to Manage Emotions

Classrooms are creating safe spaces — places where children can go to calm down, regulate their emotions, and recharge so they are ready to learn.

Some schools are taking this concept a step further. The Post Fall School District in Idaho created an entire therapeutic support classroom and the Beaufort County School District in South Carolina created a virtual calming room — complete with links to yoga, live animal videos, puzzles, and crisis hotline resources.

These safe spaces are feature tools that can assist with classroom management and help children develop healthy coping and regulation skills at a young age.

Educating Parents and Caregivers

As the adage says, “it takes a village.” We know the importance of alignment between parents/caregivers and teachers. That’s why many schools are not only promoting or requiring mental health education for their teachers and staff, but also for parents.

Kognito has developed three brief, interactive simulations designed for maximum impact specifically for parents and caregivers:

These simulations, also available in Spanish, teach parents and caregivers how to encourage open dialogue with their children, respond in constructive ways, and informs them of when and where to seek additional support if needed.

Forming Support Groups

Support groups are bringing together students with similar backgrounds and experiences to help them find community and support. These support groups may be student-led, school or staff-sponsored.

Grief groups can help students who may have lost a parent or loved one to COVID-19. BIPOC groups give students a place to discuss challenges their community faces, and take action to create change. And peer mentoring programs can create more nurturing, supportive environments.

Experience the Power of Practice-based Learning

Research demonstrates that practice-based learning to develop emotional and mental wellness skills is a critical element of district mental health initiatives.

Kognito delivers a practice-based curriculum that helps educators, school staff, and students build critical life skills to navigate difficult real-life situations, leading to more positive outcomes both in and out of the classroom.

Want to see why 94% of educators and 93% of students would recommend Kognito to others? We invite you to experience the power of role-play conversation with virtual humans by taking a demo today.

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