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APA Poll: American Adults Largely Support Mental Health Programming in Schools

Gun violence is a top worry as children return to school


Photo: Shutterstock

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s Healthy Minds Monthly Poll, the majority of adults agree that it is important for schools to play a key role in mental health, through educating students about the topic (86 percent), staff training (87 percent), or connecting students to mental health support (84 percent).

When asked to rank their level of concern on seven issues negatively affecting K-12 students, adults ranked gun violence (55 percent), mental health (50 percent), and cyberbullying and social media (48 percent) among their top three highest concerns. COVID-19 was most likely to rank 7th with a quarter of parents (27 percent) marking it as least concerning.

“The overwhelming support for mental health programming in schools is so important for our next generation, as we face an unprecedented mental health crisis for adolescents and youth,” says APA President Rebecca Brendel, M.D., J.D. “We must continue to support evidence-based practices that help children when they need it most.”

Most parents (73 percent) would be comfortable referring their child to a mental health professional if they noticed a concerning change in behavior. However, Black parents were less likely to report that they would be comfortable doing so (54 percent) than their white (76 percent) or Hispanic (72 percent) counterparts. Mothers were more likely to say so (77 percent) than fathers (67 percent).

About half of the parents surveyed indicated that they were still concerned about the pandemic’s effect on their child’s mental health (53 percent) and social skills (50 percent).

A majority of adults said they believe their local K-12 schools have a guidance counselor (68 percent) or school nurse (63 percent) available for students; the numbers were smaller for school resource officers (48 percent), social workers (31 percent), psychologists (23 percent), or psychiatrists (13 percent); and 21 percent didn’t know.

Anxiety Around Current Events

Similar to last month’s Healthy Minds Monthly poll results, 85 percent of adults reported they were anxious about inflation. Anxiety about climate change rose 4 percentage points to 60 percent, with a nine-point increase among Hispanics and a 17-point increase among Black adults. COVID-19-related anxiety rose seven points to 55 percent, with significant increases among Black adults (+22), moms (+11), parents (+10) and Hispanics (+9). More than half (56 percent) of Americans indicated anxiety around the future of reproductive rights, up 6 points since July, and 70 percent were anxious about gun violence, an increase of 4 percentage points.

“Many global issues are weighing on Americans’ minds as we move into the end of summer,” says Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A, APA’s CEO and medical director. “While the news can be stressful, taking action on an issue can help us to feel empowered, and for many, ensuring we aren’t exposing ourselves to constant negative news can help.”

The findings are from a survey conducted by Morning Consult among a sample of 2,210 adults.

About The Author

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting. She is also a consultant and content strategist for numerous wellness brands. She is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa and was named a 2019 Folio Top Woman in Media in the Industry Trailblazers category and a 2018 winner of ISPA’s Innovate Award. She is also a seasoned journalist, specializing in spa, travel, health, fitness, wellness, sustainability, and beauty. She has been published in Departures,, E! Online,, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Luxury Travel Advisor, Marin Magazine, Ocean Home, Smart Meetings, Spa Asia, and Travel Agent.