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Biden includes student mental health in State of the Union speech

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Joe Biden pledged to boost mental health services for young people, many of whom are suffering from escalating rates of depression and anxiety due to the pandemic and rise of social media.

Among other steps, Biden said he’d include $1 billion in his 2023 budget for schools to hire more school counselors, psychologists, social workers and other staff who work directly with students. The money would be in addition to mental health funding already included in the federal Covid relief bills.

“Let’s take on mental health. Especially among our children, whose lives and education have been turned upside down,” Biden said. “Children were also struggling before the pandemic. Bullying, violence, trauma and the harms of social media … let’s get all Americans the mental health services they need.”

Biden also promised to eliminate obstacles for schools to be reimbursed by Medicaid for student mental health services, a move that youth advocates have long worked toward. In addition, Biden pledged $50 million for pilot programs that would place mental health clinics in schools, libraries and other non-traditional locations.

He also urged social media companies to take more responsibility for the harmful effects of their platforms on children. Companies need to add more privacy protections, stop selling advertisements aimed at children and stop selling children’s personal data.

Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among young people have steadily increased the past few years, due to the rise of social media, economic uncertainty, gun violence and other issues. The pandemic exacerbated these conditions, as many students became isolated and fell behind in school. The U.S. surgeon general recently described young people’s declining mental health as a national crisis.