Our kids are not OK.

The U.S. surgeon general called the mental health epidemic our youth are facing an “urgent public health crisis.” The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have sounded the alarm declaring adolescent mental health a national emergency. As of 2021, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the second leading cause of premature death among those aged 10 to 24 years. Tragically, it is the leading cause of death among those aged 13 to 14 years.

Suicide, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues among U.S. youth were rising years before the COVID-19 pandemic. School stress, social media, climate change, political unrest, and school shootings are all contributing factors. The pandemic ushered in a whole new set of stressful challenges on top of those. In addition to the social isolation and academic disruption almost all children and teens experienced during the pandemic, many of them lost loved ones, lived with financial hardship, or were victims of physical or emotional abuse at home.

We are failing our kids.

Emotional Intelligence Outweighs IQ

We teach our kids math and English, but we don’t teach them the skills they need to manage themselves — their emotions and behavior — and to endure the challenges they will face in life. They need to be learning emotional intelligence (EQ) not just things that contribute to IQ.

The experts agree that EQ will take kids further in life. While intellect can help a person analyze problems, learn things, reason, and remember details — which are important, EQ allows a person to use that knowledge to be creative, perceptive, resilient, and draw upon emotions to recognize and resolve problems. While IQ is often considered the key predictor of success in the workplace, studies show that EQ actually has a stronger influence on job performance and career progression.

People with high EQs are more likely to be successful in both their personal and professional lives. They are more self-aware and in control of their emotions. They also usually feel and understand the deeper meanings of their aspirations and can find the discipline and self-motivation required to achieve them.

Mental Health Is Health

The topic of mental health has shed some of its stigma as the science around it becomes more commonly known and accepted. There’s a growing recognition that mental health is just as important as physical health. In fact, we now know that it’s all “health.” There is no separation. Many of us know all too well and the studies can now explain why physical issues affect our mental health and mental conditions affect us physically.

There’s a long tradition of teaching “health” in schools. It’s time to add mental health to that. We must make mental health education and access to mental health services a priority for our children. The studies on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) literally tell us that a failure to address this crisis now will result in more than just the distress of millions of youth today.

Untreated or inadequately treated mental illness can significantly interfere with a student’s ability to learn, grow, and develop. It leads to high rates of school dropout, unemployment, substance use, arrest, incarceration, and early death. The evidence tells us that childhood ACEs will show up later as this generation matures as higher unemployment, crime and violence, and physical and mental illnesses and decreases in productivity, success, health, and even life span.

students in classroom, child with raised hand

Specifically, teaching mental health in schools is crucial for many reasons:

Early Intervention: By educating students about mental health, schools can help identify and address mental issues earlier. Early intervention is essential for preventing more severe problems later in life. Because a child’s brain is still developing, it may be possible to stop or reverse some mental health conditions and behaviors.

Reducing Stigma: Mental health education can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. When students learn about mental health in a supportive environment, they are more likely to develop empathy, compassion, and understanding towards themselves and others. Our schools and society definitely need more of that.

Promoting Well-being: Teaching students about mental health can empower them with the knowledge and skills to take care of their own well-being. This includes stress management, emotional regulation, and coping strategies which they could practice individually and encourage in their friends, families, and communities.

Building Resilience: Mental health education can help young people build resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from adversity. Learning about mental health can give youth the skills to build mental and emotional strength and successfully manage and overcome setbacks and challenges in childhood and later in their adult lives.

Improving Academic Performance: When students are mentally and emotionally healthy, they are better able to focus on their studies and perform academically. Addressing mental health issues can improve a child’s performance in and experience of school. Stressed brains can’t focus on learning.

Preventing Mental Health Crises: Educating youth about mental health can help them recognize warning signs in themselves and others and teach them how to secure support, potentially preventing and reducing mental health crises, like suicide or self-harm.

Life Skills: Mental health education stressing emotional intelligence skills would provide valuable tools that students would carry with them into adulthood. These skills would benefit them both personally and professionally for the rest of their lives.

Empowering Students: Teaching mental health equips students with the tools and language to seek help when they need it. They are more likely to reach out to counselors, teachers, or other trusted adults if they are struggling or know someone who is if mental health is talked about openly, and support is readily accessible.

Promoting a Positive School Culture: Schools that prioritize mental health education tend to foster a more positive and supportive school culture. This can improve the overall well-being of the school community for kids, parents, and faculty and foster a spirit of trust and togetherness.

Preparing for Real-Life Challenges: In and out of school as children and adults, individuals are going to come up against various mental health challenges. By teaching mental health in schools, students are better prepared to navigate these issues, when they inevitably arise and will know how to seek help when needed.


It’s essential that families, schools, and organizations come together to build communities that prioritize mental health. Incorporating mental health education into the school curriculum is an essential step toward creating a more mentally healthy and compassionate society. It not only benefits students but also contributes to a broader cultural shift towards acknowledging the importance of mental health in all people.

Studies have proven the value of developing comprehensive school mental health programs in helping students achieve academically, build social, leadership, and self-awareness skills, and create caring connections to others in their schools and communities.Schools already play a critical role in supporting children’s mental health and can do more.

It is our desire to be part of the community support system for children and their parents. At Grey Matters, we are passionate about helping people live their best lives, including optimizing their brain’s health and function. We provide neurofeedback brain training to all ages. Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback therapy where you learn to control your brain activity to guide your brain toward optimal functioning. Give us a call at (317) 215-7208 or contact us today to find out how we can help you or someone you care about.

Photo Credit:
Top image source: Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Second image source: Image by Freepik