Mental Health Awareness Month
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a great time to highlight the importance of mental wellness and school-based mental health services to children's positive learning and development.
There is heightened urgency to the imperative to advance school-based mental health and school psychologists' expertise as essential to the provision of quality, evidence- based services. We face both risk and opportunity in the convergence of increasing needs of students, greater awareness among educators that mental health matters to achievement, shrinking education resources, and the growing influence of the communities-in-schools and school-based health center movements. We need to proactively work to develop or maintain a leadership role in the effort to ensure that students get the services they need.
This should be a year-round endeavor based primarily on effective practice, evidence- based decision-making, and clear communications. However, National Mental Health Awareness Month provides a platform to share what you know with key stakeholders. Key messages related to children's mental health include:
- Good mental health is essential to success in school and life.
- Schools are a natural place to meet children's mental health needs.
- Children who receive mental health support are happier and do better in school.
- School-based mental health services provided by trained professionals are a wise investment.
- School psychologists can provide a continuum of mental health services that support students' wellness and academic achievement.
Sample key messages related to essential role of school psychologists include:
- Services provided in schools should be appropriate to the learning environment and support the mission and purpose of schools. Those that are not risk being ineffective or even counterproductive.
- Just as children are not simply small adults, schools are not merely private clinics with chalkboards. Schools are unique environments with very distinct mandates, laws, and dynamics. Being trained to work within this culture is essential to being effective.
- School psychologists have specialized training in child development, mental health, learning, and school systems. Their unique expertise lies in how these elements interact to shape children's behavior, learning, and overall adjustment.
- School psychologists are skilled at consultation and collaboration and work effectively with school personnel and parents to link effective mental health interventions that lead to improved behavior, social–emotional wellness, and academic achievement.
- School psychologists are trained in systems-level prevention and strength-based wellness programs. They understand how these prevention efforts support the learning environment and individual students, as well as how they ground the three-tiered prevention and intervention model.
NASP has many online resources to help with this, including adaptable resources, communications tips, articles for principals, and research-based articles. In addition, this year NASP is a partner with the national Speak UP for Kids campaign to bring mental health awareness to parents and teachers.
Great Ideas for Making the Connection With Mental Health
Distribute or post on your school's website the adaptable article on supporting children's mental health, available online in NASP communications resources in the Resource Library. Don't have a webpage? Consider creating one using the “Create Your Own Website” resources.
Provide resources on stress and anxiety related to the economic crisis. Students in many parts of the country are experiencing stress and anxiety resulting from changes in their family circumstances. NASP has adaptable resources available.
Provide information on school safety and violence prevention. NASP has created a page on school safety and violence prevention with resources for parents, administrators, and school mental health professionals.
Connect with your local administrators. Use NASP mental health handouts and articles by NASP in Principal Leadership (National Association of Secondary School Principals) as information and discussion starters regarding school mental services.
Recognize individuals supporting students' mental health. A great success during School Psychology Awareness Week, honoring teachers and other school staff for their extraordinary efforts to make difference in students' lives is a terrific way to recognize the prevention/wellness promotion aspects of school-based mental health.
Explain the continuum of school-based mental health services. Provide a parent or teacher resource each week on one part of the mental health continuum—prevention/wellness promotion (PBS or social skills), targeted intervention (discipline or bullying), intensive intervention (suicide prevention and intervention).
Plan an inservice training for school staff. In addition to the resources in the Communications section of the website, there are myriad handouts and presentations on mental health issues from the 2012 convention in Philadelphia and the 2013 convention in Seattle. NASP members can download and use these for their own edification, as research to create a presentation, or as the basis for a training session (with permission from the original creator).
Earn NASP-approved CPD online. NASP's Online Learning Center offers a number of workshops and sessions related to mental health, such as Mark Kiselica's Advanced Workshop on Counseling Troubled Boys and Eric A. Youngstrom's workshop on Adapting Cognitive–Behavioral, Family, and Psychoeducational Intervention Skills for Use With Bipolar Disorder.