Superintendents and teachers say student mental health and behavioral concerns are more urgent following the pandemic. Still, schools need more resources to adequately address the issues, according to two recent surveys by the education research and consulting firm EAB.

While 81% of superintendents agree student behavioral concerns have deepened since the pandemic, 79% say they do not have the staff to focus on the problem, and 63% cited budget concerns as another barrier.

Another survey found 84% of teachers, administrators, and support staff agree students are developmentally behind in self-regulation and relationship-building and that incidents of physical violence have more than doubled since COVID-19. But almost 60% said pressure to boost academic outcomes leaves them with little time to address the situation.

Another report by K-12 Dive revealed 3 in 5 teenage girls felt persistently sad or hopeless, and almost 1 in 3 seriously considered suicide, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

In light of that report, the CDC said school-based activities “can make a profound difference in the lives of teens with a relatively small infusion of support to schools.” CDC director Kathleen Ethier called out schools for having the “unique ability” to help youth.

However, the EAB findings suggest school leaders need more resources to make that happen.

“EAB’s survey of superintendents showed that while most feel more confident and energized than they did a year ago, persistent funding concerns and staffing headaches have led many district leaders to question whether making progress on their priorities is possible in today’s environment,” said Ben Court, EAB senior director of K-12 research.

“The top priority for those who choose to stay and persevere must be to create a safe, supportive environment where teachers and students are able to do their best work,” Court said.

“While teachers have always had to respond to student behavioral needs of their students, those needs are changing,” said Jeff Schuler, superintendent of Community Unit School District 200 in Wheaton, IL. “It causes you to kind of need to rebalance that support or training you provide for teachers.”

Schuler said that his district has been able to invest in student mental health support using federal relief dollars, including adding emotional wellness coordinators to every middle and high school who teachers can rely on as a point of contact. However, he anticipates the local budget will eventually have to absorb those costs.

“We’re going to have to work to make sure that there’s space for it in the budget, and it’s a priority,” said Schuler. That requires providing data to the school board on the need for and impact of student mental health investments and ensuring the community understands why such investments are essential.

Nationally, concern over students’ mental health — and a lack of school funding to address the problem — is on the radar of both lawmakers and policymakers.

In February, President Joe Biden reiterated his push to improve mental health care in schools in his State of the Union speech, while U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy attended a town hall with high schoolers from Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools to discuss the student mental health crisis.

The department also announced Thursday the release of $188 million from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to 170 grantees in more than 30 states. The federal funding aims to increase access to school-based mental health services and strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need school districts.