What Administrators Should Know
In recent years, schools have experienced tremendous amounts of pressure to meet the No Child Left Behind regulations. Additionally, at the same time, students (and their families) also seem to be experiencing more stress and other out-of-school factors that inhibit their ability to learn and achieve academically. Research indicates that there is a current mental health epidemic affecting students and their school success.
The jobs of administrators and school faculty become more and more challenging as they address the social and emotional needs of their students, while upholding governing academic regulations. Evidence shows that schools benefit greatly from the school-family-community partnership that is promoted through the Coordinated School Health Program model.
The school-family-community partnership usually leads to a more comprehensive, integrated array of services that support learning and academic achievement. Typically, these services are organized into the following three-tiered continuum, based upon the needs of the student body.
Mental Health Promotion and Prevention
Every child should have the opportunity to experience academic success. Mental health promotion and prevention activities can support students’ learning and contribute to the reduction of high dropout and/or failure rates of students with behavior or emotional disorders. These activities can include preparing teachers and school personnel to provide effective supports for students who present mental health needs. Furthermore, mental health promotion and prevention strategies build on students’ strengths and resilience to stressors.
As is generally accepted, the earlier that mental health services are implemented, the greater long-term outcome of mental health is for children. Treating students early can prevent further disability and additional (co-occurring) mental illness, among other challenges. Early intervention activities include strategies for building skills (e.g. coping strategies, conflict resolution) that not only address social and emotional problems, but also decrease risk factors and improve protective factors in children.
Treatment, Referral and Follow-up
Successful treatment programs incorporate interventions in the home, school, and community, as well as involve the collaboration of multiple systems to focus on the student in their school environment (Greenberg, Domitrovich, & Bumbarger, 2001). In order for treatment to be effective and yield positive outcomes for students, interventions should be research-based, family-centered and culturally-competent. School mental health services can play an important role for students with more intensive needs. Additionally, schools in partnership with community resources can support students who are returning to school after being away for treatment or moving between different grade levels and/or schools.