Mental health in schools receives boost

Department news | January 31, 2023

Washington state is grappling with a mental health crisis among youth. A statewide questionnaire of students across grade levels showed that in 2021, 45% of Washington 12th graders reported feeling depressed (sad and hopeless), an increase of four percentage points since 2018.

To help reverse that trend, a coalition of Washington agencies including UW Medicine has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education for a five-year initiative that will put Master of Social Work Students from diverse backgrounds in high-need school districts to serve as mental health professionals.

The Washington State School Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Project is a collaboration between UW and the state’s four other higher education social work training programs, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Washington Association of Social School Workers and the WA State Association of School Principals. The project’s goals are to increase the number of school mental health service professionals.

Led by Eric Bruns, PhD, and Jennifer Stuber, PhD, the UW Schools of Medicine and Social Work will receive $6 million to provide training and conditional scholarships to more than 100 students. They’ll be placed in public schools starting with the 2023-24 academic year. UW also will have training enhancements to offer to any student who wants to work in a school setting and will provide assistance with advanced practicum placement opportunities.