In just 10 days, it will mark exactly one year since millions of K-12 students have attended in-person class. This has caused predictable and jarring setbacks to their academic development, and it has also caused emotional distress for kids, especially teenagers, that should call every adult in this country to action.
That is why today, on the annual World Teen Mental Wellness Day, I call on everyone – from the Biden Administration to the local school boards and special interest groups to come together and help put an end to this mental health crisis affecting our children. This is an existential threat. The immediate solution is to work together to reopen every school in America now.
We know the common link to the stark rise of mental health issues has been shut classrooms. Since school closures went into effect, hospitals have reported a significant increase in mental health emergencies among children as young as five years old.
A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the brutal truth of the toll closed schools have had on our children. According to the survey, 63 percent of late teens and young adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, 25 percent of which reported increased substance use to deal with the stress.
Dr. Hansa D. Bhargava, the Senior Medical Director at WebMD, explains, “When we took kids out of classrooms, they lost not only a sense of structure but also a much-needed outlet for socialization — a place where they can play with and talk to their classmates and friends.”
The isolation and lack of structure has also caused a devastating rise in suicidal ideations and suicides among children. The University of California San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital reported a 66 percent increase in the number of suicidal children in the emergency room last year. And in Clark County, Nevada — home to the fifth largest school system in the nation — eighteen children took their own lives in the last year, double the amount from the previous year.
House Republicans understand the need to get kids back to school, and we fully grasp the urgency of this mental health epidemic. That is why last week Rep. Ashley Hinson introduced a Motion to Recommit that would significantly increase the resources that families and students can access to help improve the health of their children. Our proposal would shift $140 million allocated to fund Speaker Pelosi’s subway in Silicon Valley, and it would direct those resources to grants states and localities can use toward mental health services. Unfortunately, it was unanimously rejected by Democrats.
But we are not going to give up.
We cannot abandon an entire generation. Now is the time to reopen schools and get struggling students back on track and back to health, and that is what House Republicans remain committed to fighting for.