Integrating mental health strategies involves using the naturalistic resources within schools to implement and sustain effective supports for promoting positive mental health in students with and without disabilities and mental health challenges.1 Although the mental health field has traditionally been viewed as the domain of mental health providers, it is now recognized that addressing mental health issues is far too complex to relegate to a small number of professionals and is more effectively addressed in promotional, preventative ways. There is a call for a paradigm shift to better prepare all school personnel to proactively address the mental health needs of all students.2 Teachers and other front line personnel, including occupational therapists, play a critical role in the development of children from both an academic as well as personal, social and emotional perspectives.
All of the model programs developed for this project focus on embedding strategies and activities associated with enhancing feelings of mental well-being and happiness in children and youth (e.g. promoting enjoyment, strength-based approaches, thinking optimistically). Additionally, these programs involve the use of indigenous resources in schools (occupational therapists, recess & lunch supervisors, teachers, school counselors, speech language pathologists, etc.) in order to integrate a public health approach to mental health within the school ecology. Integration of mental health promotion strategies throughout the school day is critical for generalization of targeted skills and helping all children and youth take care of their mental health.
"An important component of integrating mental health efforts into the ongoing routines of schools is the identification and support of indigenous persons and resources within schools as agents of change."1
1 Atkins, M. S., Hoagwood, K. E., Kutash, K., & Seidman, E. (2010). Toward the integration of education and mental health in schools. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 37, 40–47. doi:10.1007/s10488-010-0299-7
2 Koller, J. R., & Bertel, J. M. (2006). Responding to today's mental health needs of children, families and schools: Revisiting the preservice training and preparation of school-based personnel. Education and Treatment of Children, 29, 197–217.