School Mental Health

A national movement to develop and expand school mental health (SMH) services has grown during the past two decades as a result of the high prevalence of mental health needs among youth and the awareness that more youth can be reached in schools. Schools must be active partners in the mental health of all children and youth because it is currently accepted that a major barrier to learning is the absence of essential social-emotional skills and not necessarily a lack of sufficient cognitive skills. Approximately one in every five children and adolescents has a diagnosable emotional or behavioral disorder with the most common being anxiety, depression, ADHD, and conduct disorders. Emotional and behavioral disorders can adversely affect a child’s successful participation in a range of school activities including classroom work and social interaction with peers and adults. Children with disabilities are at increased risk for developing mental and/or behavioral challenges. Nearly 1 in 3 children with developmental disabilities is diagnosed with a co-occurring mental health problem.

School Mental Health (SMH) can be thought of as a framework of approaches expanding on traditional methods to promote children's mental health by emphasizing prevention, positive youth development, and school-wide approaches. This SMH framework promotes interdisciplinary collaboration between mental health providers, related service providers, teachers and school administrators in order to meet the mental health needs of all students. Legislative changes have also prompted schools to shift to a multi-tiered model of services committing to the success of all students by providing early identification and intervening services. For more information about School Mental Health, check out the websites listed below.

1 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.
2 Masia-Warner, C., Nangle, D. W., Hansen, D. J. (2006). Bringing evidence-based child mental health services to the schools: General issues and specific populations. Education and Treatment of Children, 29, 165–172.
3 Koppelman, J. (2004). Children with mental disorders: Making sense of their needs and systems that help them. NHPF Issue Brief, No. 799, National Health Policy Forum, The George Washington University, Washington DC.
4 Schwartz, C., Garland, O., Waddell, C., & Harrison, E. (2006). Mental health and developmental disabilities in children. Research report prepared for Children and Youth Mental Health. Vancouver: British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development, Children's Health Policy Centre.