The U.S. Surgeon General has issued an advisory warning about a mental health crisis for children. Several national health organizations have also declared a national state of emergency for child and adolescent mental health resulting from prolonged stress, instability, and isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is old news for most of our educators, who once again find themselves as the baseline support system we rely on to fulfill the basic needs of our nation’s youth.
“When students returned to classrooms in August this year, we saw higher levels of stress and anxiety,” said Patrick Brady, Superintendent at the Massena Central School District in New York. “Addressing mental health concerns has become a number one priority in our district.”
On top of hiring more counselors and mental health professionals, Mr. Brady’s district introduced a new member of its team: Raider. Named after their mascot, Raider is a chatbot that helps the district check in on families and students at scale via mobile messaging, answering families’ questions around the clock, guiding them to resources, and escalating concerns to school staff when needed.
We’ve grown accustomed to using chatbots and voice assistants in our interactions with most businesses, but the world of education has been slow to adopt them, especially in K-12. That’s changing. The pandemic heightened the need for scalable, virtual communication, and we’re starting to see the potential use cases grow, including for mental health support.
Meeting the immediate demand for mental health resources
Increased federal relief funding for mental health under Title IV and the American Rescue Plan means that schools have money to spend. A national study by the Rand Corporation over the summer found that three quarters of school district leaders said they wanted to add or had already added mental health–focused staff.