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National report finds Oklahoma is lacking in youth mental health supports

Priscilla Du Preez

Youth across the nation have been struggling with their mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic and school closures.

Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are on the rise. In 2020, the rates of mental health-related emergency room visits rose by about a quarter for 5-11 year olds and by almost a third for 12-17 year olds.

“The truth is we weren’t adequately addressing this crisis before the pandemic, and it’s only gotten worse,” the authors of America’s School Mental Health Report Card write.

The stakes are high, the report’s authors suggest. Oklahoma has an estimated 54,000 children with major depression and 30,000 of them aren’t receiving any treatment.

The state has taken several measures to improve resource access like adding mental health education to health education standards and requiring teacher and staff training for suicide awareness.

The report praised the Oklahoma legislature for passing House Bill 1568 during the 2021 session. That measure adds mental health instruction to the health curriculum.
The state announced a massive $35 million program over the summer to hire more counselors and social workers across the state. But, there remains an acute shortage of mental health workers. The study found the ratios of students to professionals continues to lag.

  • Oklahoma has one school psychologist for every 3,301 students (the recommended ratio is 1:500).
  • Oklahoma has one school social worker for every 5,167 students (the recommended ratio is 1:250).
  • Oklahoma has one school counselor for every 421 students (the recommended ratio is 1:250).

The report recommends making further investments into school mental health infrastructure.

To view only the Oklahoma portion of the report, click here.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Robby Korth grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Nebraska with a journalism degree.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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