Declaring that children’s “lives and education have been turned upside-down,” President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to highlight the pandemic’s blow to student mental health and fixed some of the blame on social media.

Earlier in the day, the White House released highlights of Biden’s plan to use federal relief funds to double the ranks of school social workers and counselors. The administration also said the president will propose $70 million in early-childhood mental health funding as part of his 2023 fiscal year budget and has already included $1 billion in his 2022 budget request for school-based mental health services.

The White House linked students’ social and emotional struggles to academic outcomes, pointing to early data revealing that students were four to five months behind in math and reading.

Hinting at COVID’s lingering effects, Biden urged Congress to “take on mental health, especially among our children.”

While his address largely focused on the war in Ukraine and the lagging American economy, Biden also signaled a major shift in the pandemic’s disruption to education.

“Our schools are open,” he said. “Let’s keep it that way. Our kids need to be in school.”

He highlighted federal relief funds designed to help students make up for lost learning, urging “every parent to make sure your school does just that. And we can all play a part — sign up to be a tutor or a mentor.”

The attention to mental health comes amid mounting evidence of the pandemic’s negative impact on student well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data last week showing increases in emergency room visits among teen girls have increased since 2020 for behaviors ranging from eating disorders to anxiety.

While states have previously used federal child care funds for early-childhood mental health, he said he’s never seen anything “of this size and nature.”

“It’s certainly the right time for it,” he said. “To have money that is carved out very specifically for early-childhood mental health is completely new.”

Read the full article about student mental health by Linda Jacobson at The 74.