Our School of Thought

  • The state of mental health among adolescents has been deteriorating over the last several decades, well before the COVID-19 pandemic, and was officially declared a “devastating” crisis last year by the U.S. Surgeon General in a rare public advisory.
  • The adolescent population is currently drastically underserved by traditional treatment options (e.g. talk therapy, medication, and inpatient care) due to the lack of care infrastructure and an ongoing shortage of clinicians, even despite the rise of telehealth facilitating scaled care and helping to partially mitigate the supply challenges.
  • Schools play an instrumental role in adolescents’ everyday lives and as a result, have an opportunity to help enable earlier intervention if they are equipped with mental health care infrastructure and trained resources that allow them to partner with families to improve outcomes.
Companies addressing youth and adolescent mental health
  • Schools lack the necessary infrastructure: Ideally, schools should operate within a framework known as Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), and to their credit, some already do. MTSS is designed to address students’ varying degree of needs through three tiers of escalating behavioral and academic support. The framework calls for teachers to spearhead Tier 1 interventions that are more preventative in nature. The most common example is through Social Emotional Learning (SEL) classroom activities such as journal prompts, arts and crafts, and mindfulness exercises where students learn how to understand emotions, connect with others, and make decisions. A sub-set of the school population identified as being at-risk, or experiencing mental health difficulties, is then escalated to Tiers 2 and 3, where diagnosis and treatment occur. However, the practical implementation and execution of the MTSS framework is still nascent. Schools are grossly understaffed, mental health literacy training for teachers is lacking, and some stigma still exists around talking about mental health in schools. Despite increased reliance on teachers to fill the gap in school-based mental health care, a recent study published in Psychology in the Schools found that the vast majority of teachers surveyed have had zero or very few trainings on student mental health.⁷
  • There are not enough care providers: Less than 20% of adolescents struggling with mental health issues are adequately treated and three-quarters of those that are seeking treatment rely on help from schools, which have historically lacked resources.⁸ According to the U.S. Department of Education, only two states meet the American School Counselor Association (ASCA)’s recommended student-to-counselor ratio of 250 to 1, with a national average ratio of 415 to 1 as of the 2020–2021 school year.⁹ In fact, less than half of states mandate a school counselor for grades K to 8, and only 30 states require one for grades 9 to 12, where a third of those mandating a school counselor do not provide schools with state funding.¹⁰ Furthermore, school counselors across the nation often do not have clinical licenses. Without these licenses, school counselors cannot bill Medicaid and private insurance for the care they provide which often precludes schools from recouping federal funds. Outside of the education system, there has been an ongoing national shortage of youth and adolescent psychiatrists, leading to extremely long waitlists for inpatient and outpatient care both in person and virtually.¹¹ There are currently only 25% of the recommended number of psychiatrists per one hundred thousand children, and 7 out of 10 U.S. counties do not have a child psychiatrist at all.¹² These pain points are only further magnified in rural communities where it is a struggle to both recruit school counselors and access providers outside of the education system for referrals.

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Able Partners

Able Partners

Able Partners is an investment fund focused on supporting visionary, early stage brands in positive living.