Schools as Mental Health Providers
March 01, 2023
Appears in March 2023: School Administrator.
Even with a shortage of specialists, resource help is available to frontline educators through a new AASA cohort
Several years ago, I got a call from my son’s high school. They told me he was having a mental breakdown and asked me to pick him up. When I arrived, a district counselor gave me a long list of providers and organizations I could call to get him the care he needed.
The problem I soon discovered was that there was no one who could see him. Mental health professionals were all booked three to six months out.
Like me, most parents who are confronted with a child’s mental health challenges turn to their child’s school. For children with mental and behavioral health needs, 80 percent of parents and guardians rely on school-based services to support their children, according to a nationwide poll of 200 school administrators and 1,000 parents of K-12 students commissioned by Effective School Solutions. While only 16 percent of children receive any mental health services, the overwhelming majority receive them in the school setting.
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AASA’s Mental Health Cohort
The advantages of schools as a principal provider of mental health services to youth were on display at a mental health summit last fall, jointly sponsored by AASA, the JED Foundation and the Cook Center for Human Connection and in partnership with Hope Squad.
More than 70 superintendents and school leaders from 30 states attended the two-day conference in October 2022 where we prioritized problems and shared solutions.
Our first action was to establish the AASA Mental Health Cohort. This multiyear initiative will gather school leaders several times a year to serve the mental and general health and well-being of each other, their staff and their communities. Our focus will be on scalable solutions. We will work together to develop strategic plans to increase mental health services and support for all constituents, improve mental well-being for the school community and ensure program sustainability.
The cohort, involving 30 education leaders, has already begun. Its work builds on AASA’s “Live Well. Lead Well” campaign. The JED Foundation has provided financial support to cover a portion of the registration costs for school system leaders. Leaders can join at any time, and we anticipate the cohort will continue for years to come.
The three organizations involved with the newly created cohort at its inception bring together leading programs and products, from systems level to highly personalized solutions, in an effort to prevent suicide, provide mental health support and enhance human connections essential for people to thrive.
Further details about the cohort are available at aasa.org/mental-health-cohort.
— Anne Brown