Trouble with playground bullies started for Maria Ishoo’s daughter in elementary school. Girls called her names and ganged-up. “fat” You can also find out more about the following: “ugly.” Boys pushed and tripped her. The California mother watched as her bubbly, second-grader retreated into her room and spent afternoons curled in bed.

For Valerie Aguirre’s daughter in Hawaii, a spate of middle school “friend drama” As the bullying and violence escalated, the 12-year-old felt disconnected and alone.

Both children received telehealth help therapyA service that schools In response to the nationwide offer soaring mental health struggles The youth of America are a diverse group.

At least 16 of America’s 20 largest public school districts now offer online learning. therapy According to a report by The Associated Press, millions of students will benefit from these sessions. Only in those districts, schools More than 70 million dollars in provider contracts have been signed.

The growth of the economy reflects a booming The new way to buy? business Born from America’s youth mental health crisis, which has proven so lucrative that venture capitalists are funding a new crop of school teletherapy companies. Some experts have raised concerns over the quality of care provided by rapidly growing tech companies.

As you can see, schools cope with shortages of in-person practitioners, however, educators say teletherapy works for many kids, and it’s meeting a massive need. Rural schools Students with low incomes in particular have benefited. therapy Accessible online. Online counseling is available to students during school hours or after-hours. from home.

“This is how we can prevent people from falling through the cracks,” Ishoo said, a mother-of-two from Lancaster, California.

Ishoo recalls standing at her second-grader’s bedroom door last year and wishing she could get through to her. “What’s wrong?” Mother would ask. She was heartbroken by the response. “It’s NOTHING, Mom.”

She signed her daughter up for a teletherapy session launched by her school district last spring. The girl was logged on for a whole month during her weekly sessions. from Her bedroom was the first place she opened up to her therapist. He gave her breathing techniques for anxiety reduction and tools to cope with her feelings. The therapist told the daughter that she was in control of her emotions. Don’t give anyone else that control.

“She learned that it’s OK to ask for help, and sometimes everyone needs some extra help,” Ishoo spoke.

The 13,000-student school system, like so many others, has counselors and psychologists on staff, but not enough to meet the need, said Trish Wilson, the Lancaster district’s coordinator of counselors.

She said that the therapists in her area are overloaded with cases, so it is impossible to refer a student for immediate treatment. The virtual session can be scheduled within days.

“Our preference is to provide our students in-person therapy. Obviously, that’s not always possible,” Wilson’s district has referred over 325 students to more than 800 sessions since the launch of the online therapy program.

In interviews, students and parents reported that they sought teletherapy to combat feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and academic stress. The transition to in-person education after distance learning can be traumatic for many. Social skills had deteriorated, friendships were strained and tempers were more volatile.

Experts have warned that alarming rates are occurring. youth depression, anxiety and suicide. Many school districts sign contracts with private firms. Some school districts are working with local healthcare providers. providersNonprofits or State programs

Mental health experts are happy to see the additional support, but warn of potential dangers. For one, it’s getting harder to hire school counselors and psychologists, and competition with telehealth providers isn’t helping.

“We have 44 counselor vacancies, and telehealth definitely impacts our ability to fill them,” said Doreen Hogans, supervisor of school counseling in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Hogans says that about 20% of the school counselors leaving have moved to teletherapy positions, which provide more flexibility in terms of hours.

Kevin Dahill Fuchel is the executive director of Counseling in Schools. A nonprofit that assists schools with counseling, and he said the rapid growth raises questions regarding the qualifications of therapists as well as their experience working with children. schools bolster traditional, in-person mental health services.

“As we give these young people access to telehealth, I want to hear how all these other bases are covered,” He said.

One of the largest providersHazel Health is a San Francisco-based company that began telemedicine healthcare services in schools Josh Golomb, CEO of the company, said that it will expand to mental health by May 2021. It employs 300+ clinicians to provide teletherapy across 150 school districts and 15 states.

Hazel is generating millions of dollars from its rapid expansion. The company has signed a contract worth $24 million with Los Angeles County for teletherapy services.

Hazel has also worked with Hawaii, who paid her nearly $4 million in three years for her work. schoolsClark County schools The Las Vegas area has allocated $3.25million for Hazel’s teletherapy. The districts of Miami-Dade, Prince George’s and Houston schools Hazel has also been a partner.

Golomb stated that Hazel was focused on making sure the welfare of the children is more important than the bottom line.

“We have the ethos of a nonprofit company but we’re using a private-sector mechanism to reach as many kids as we can,” Golomb said. Hazel received $51.5 million of venture capital funding by 2022, which fueled the company’s expansion. “Do we have any concerns about any compromise in quality? The resounding answer is no.”

Other providers Are getting into the space. New York City launched its free telehealth program in November. therapy service for teens to help eliminate barriers to access, said Ashwin Vasan, the city’s health commissioner. New York will pay TalkSpace $26million over three years to provide a service that allows teens aged 13-17 to download an application and communicate with licensed therapists via phone, video, or text.

New York, unlike other cities, offers the service to teens enrolled in public, private or home schools. schoolsIf you want to know more about a specific topic, please click on the link. not in school at all.

“I truly hope this normalizes and democratizes access to mental health care for our young people,” Vasan said.

Many of Hawaii’s referrals come from schools In rural or remote areas. Maui has seen a sharp increase in student clients since the deadly August wildfiresFern Yoshida oversees teletherapy at the Department of Education. Students have already logged 2,047 sessions of teletherapy this fall. This is a tripled increase. from The same period last season.

One of them was Valerie Aguirre’s daughter, whose fallout with two friends turned physical last year in sixth grade, when one of the girls slapped her daughter in the face. Aguirre suggested that her daughter try teletherapy. After two months online therapy, “she felt better,” Aguirre said that he had come to the realization that everyone makes errors and friendships are able to be repaired.

Ishoo, a Californian woman, says that her daughter is now in the third grade and she has been passing on wisdom to her younger sister who just started kindergarten.

“She walks her little sister to class and tells her everything will be OK. She’s a different person. She’s older and wiser. She reassures her sister,” Ishoo spoke. “I heard her say, ‘If kids are being mean to you, just ignore them.’”

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Sharon Lurye, Associated Press data reporter, contributed.

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The Associated Press educational team receives support from Carnegie Corporation of New York The AP is responsible for all content.