Why school mental health?
Over 25% of children and adolescents experience a significant trauma by adulthood. While many children may return to previous levels of functioning following a traumatic event, the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and/or behavioral problems is common. In addition, trauma exposure and mental health symptoms can interfere with school engagement and performance, leading to long-term effects such as decreased and increased likelihood of needing to repeat a grades. Many youth exposed to trauma do not receive needed mental health services.
Children spend an average of 35 hours per week in their schools, surrounded by adults with knowledge about their academic and social functioning.
This translates into an opportunity to detect problems early and improve access to supports and interventions that can support their development. We focus on areas of training and coaching that are critical to launching a successful trauma-informed school mental health program consistent with the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework as well as national models for trauma-informed care.
- Needs and Capacity Assessment and Action Planning: Engaging all stakeholders in a comprehensive planning process that is continuously updated based on data and outcomes assessment.
- Ongoing Professional Development and Education for Staff: Creating ongoing professional development opportunities based on principles of adult learning and to create internal capacity to lead PD for staff to enhance sustainability.
- School-wide Expectations and Strategies: Ensuring that school-wide protocols and procedures are consistent with trauma-informed principles. This includes a review of existing building-wide expectations for student behaviors and review of discipline and crisis policies and procedures.
- Relationship Building between Staff and Students: Providing staff with concrete strategies to student-staff relationship building to ensure that every student has strong adult relationships in the school.
- Collaboration with Families and Communities: Working to engage families and communities to improve perceived relevance of school programming and sensitivity to cultural factors that exist in the family and community.
- Behavioral Health Teams: Supporting student social-emotional learning (SEL) via universal SEL programming, identify student social-emotional needs via standardized referral and screening practices that take into account trauma exposure and trauma symptoms, and to ensure that data-based decision-making is used to help match students to appropriate mental health interventions.
- Targeted (Tier 2) Interventions for Trauma: We train and provide ongoing supported implementation for school-based clinicians in two evidence-based interventions for trauma: Bounce Back (Elementary School) and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) for middle/high school.
- Ongoing Evaluation and Quality Improvement: We are committed to using a combination of qualitative data and quantitative data to ensure that our work is having the desired impact.