While the world is currently moving into a post-pandemic era, young people are facing an unparalleled mental health crisis as one in five children struggle with mental health challenges. In 2022, more than 40% of teens stated they struggled with feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and more than half of caregivers stated they were concerned about their child’s mental health. This crisis is exacerbated by disparities in mental health across race and socioeconomic status. The suicide rate for children of color is almost twice the rate of their white counterparts (Hoffman, 2022), and low socioeconomic status is correlated with higher risk for mental health concerns (Hudson, 2005).
With nearly 10 million students in K–12 public schools nationwide in need of mental health support, schools and community organizations are key players in restoring children’s mental wellness. This effort is often tackled through social and emotional learning (SEL)—an educational focus that addresses the social, emotional, and behavioral components of mental health. There is strong evidence that writing encourages social and emotional growth (McGee, 2022). Writing is an outlet to communicate and navigate through life’s challenges. Schools and community organizations provide a space for students to write and thereby gain agency by expressing their thoughts and emotions through their stories.
This report uses 826 as a case study to explore the efficacy of creating spaces for students to build their social and emotional competency through the impacts of writing.