Promoting mental health in schools is essential in creating an environment conducive to the academic and personal development of students. This guide, derived from the suggestions provided by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Child Mind Institute, is designed to help educators and school administrators.
- Prioritize Mental Health: Recognize mental health as a key aspect of student success. Build a culture that emphasizes mental well-being, embedding it in school policies and practices.
- Staff Training: Train teachers and school staff to identify early signs of mental health issues. Programs like Mental Health First Aid can provide invaluable skills to non-mental health professionals.
- Establish a Mental Health Team: Form a multidisciplinary team consisting of school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and nurses who can respond effectively to mental health needs.
- Integrate Mental Health into the Curriculum: Incorporate mental health education into the curriculum. Teach students about mental health and wellness, stigma, and seeking help.
- Early Intervention Programs: Implement programs that identify and address mental health issues at the earliest stages. Early intervention can prevent the escalation of these issues.
- Encourage Open Dialogue: Create a safe, non-judgmental space for students to discuss their mental health concerns. This can reduce stigma and encourage help-seeking behavior.
- Provide Support Services: Ensure that services such as counseling and therapy are available and easily accessible to students in need.
- Foster Connections: Encourage positive relationships among students, staff, and families. Strong connections can serve as a protective factor against mental health issues.
- Consider the Whole Child: Understand that a child’s mental health is influenced by many factors, including academic pressures, peer relationships, family dynamics, and physical health.
- Promote Self-Care: Teach students the importance of self-care activities such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and relaxation techniques.
- Regular Parent Engagement: Keep parents informed about their child’s mental health, and involve them in interventions. Provide them with resources to support their child’s mental health at home.
National Association of School Psychologists. (2021). Comprehensive School-Based Mental and Behavioral Health Services and School Psychologists [handout]. https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/mental-and-behavioral-health/additional-resources/comprehensive-school-based-mental-and-behavioral-health-services-and-school-psychologists
SAMHSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: https://www.samhsa.gov/mental-health/how-to-talk/educators