Language Arts, Math, Science and Mental Health: The Importance of a Mental Health Curriculum in Schools

Thu, 04/22/2021 – 10:52

By Louis Gagnon, CEO of Total Brain

One year into COVID-19, school systems nationwide report that grades are taking a hit. Poor adaptation to virtual learning mandates and economic inequities have been cited as key drivers of the toll on academics. However, neuroscience suggests that the unprecedented decline in student mental health is an equally strong indicator of academic performance. Success in school is inextricably linked to brain capacities, such as memory, focus, and planning. Those brain functions are themselves directly affected by mental health.

Repeated and prolonged stress and anxiety hijacks the brain and puts us in fight-or-flight mode. When we perceive danger, all of our bodily systems are focused on keeping us safe. Naturally, chronic stress and anxiety inhibits the ability to learn by making us inflexible vs. flexible and contracting vs. expansive.

Teens and young adults have been particularly vulnerable to the mental health impacts of the pandemic. An American Psychology Association study found seven out of ten students, ages 8to 23, reported experiencing common symptoms of depression.

Recently, Total Brain and the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) partnered on a neuroscientific study. We looked at the impact of declining mental health on student cognitive capacities during the time of COVID-19.  We went into this national study with knowledge that the pandemic was taking a tremendous toll on the mental health of adolescents and young adults.  We wanted to see to what degree this unprecedented emotional strain was impacting students’ ability to learn.

Our findings are consistent with research that points to an epidemic of mental health concerns among today’s youth. When we assessed more than 1,000 high school and college students, ages 13 – 22, nearly half were at risk for general anxiety (48%) and social anxiety (45%). And two in five students were at risk for PTSD (39%) and depression (40%). 

Further, when we measured student cognitive capacities – memory, focus, and planning – we discovered that the average percentile rank for students in each of these functions fell well below the standard average.  Expressed in percentile ranking, the standard average for any capacity is the 50th percentile ranking.  What we found was:

Memory: 37th percentile rank (13 percentile points below standard average)
Focus: 37th  percentile rank (13 percentile points below standard average)
Planning: 34th percentile rank (16 percentile points below standard average)

In response to our research findings, Barry A. Garst, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Youth Leadership Development at Clemson University noted, “The importance of providing students with resources that strengthen their resilience and flexibility in the face of conflict or change has never been more apparent than now.”

Stephen Wallace, president and director of our research partner CARE says, “Students can benefit greatly from lessons designed to build self-awareness, build on cognitive strengths and address deficit areas in need of development.”

The psychological impact of having an entire population of students under extended periods of stress cannot be underestimated. A high risk for common mental health conditions can severely impact student motivation and engagement, academic performance, and ultimately graduation rates. An entire generation is at risk of never reaching their full potential – and that should worry us all.   

As our nation awaits the tsunami of mental health issues born from or worsened by COVID-19, investments in student mental health may be among the wisest ways our nation can support today’s youth. Teaching students strategies and coping skills to deal with stress and anxiety and providing tools and vocabulary to communicate their feelings is a very smart move. The long-term economic benefits of a standardized mental health curriculum will yield an incalculable return for students, businesses, the economy, and society-at-large. Learning to manage mental health is as important as learning the ABCs, multiplication tables, or basic biology. 

Louis Gagnon is the CEO of Total Brain, a mental health and wellness platform powered by the world’s largest standardized neuroscientific database.  He is Advisor to TPG Capital, a top-tier US private equity firm who named him CEO of Ride, a portfolio company that he restructured.  As a corporate executive, Louis held dual Chief Product Officer and Chief Marketing Officer roles at Audible/Amazon, Yodle and Monster Worldwide.  As an entrepreneur, Louis created and led five business and social enterprises on four continents, many of which were in the field of reproductive health.  He received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Laval University in Quebec City and a Master of Science in Marketing from HEC-Montreal. His work has been featured in a number of management books and magazines including The Economist.

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The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: