To recover from the pandemic, social-emotional learning is not a luxury, it’s a necessity

We are facing a mental health crisis that’s hitting all communities very hard

The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.

Nearly 2 1/2 years into a deadly global pandemic, our nation’s children are in the midst of a mental health crisis that we have failed to adequately address.Students, parents, health experts and educators all point to forced isolation and the interruption of everyday life as the root cause of distress.Even the U.S. surgeon general has warned us about this alarming and widespread mental health crisis. In some cases, experts have declared that the pandemic is causing trauma-like symptoms.

The pandemic has also affected students’ social and academic development. Nearly 60 percent of parents in Massachusetts said their young child’s learning has been harmed by the pandemic. Statistics show that third-graders across the nation are scoring significantly lower in math. Some 77 percent of educators have noticed negative behavior changes in early learners.That’s why it’s time to double-down on social-emotional learning, or SEL, programming, something we advocate at the New York City public school network The Urban Assembly.

We can no longer wait for our leaders to realize that SEL programs are the best tools educators have to simultaneously address the growing mental health crisis and learning loss.

SEL provides students with the fundamental emotional skills and competencies to advocate for their mental health needs. It also encourages academic success when things get challenging.