What role should a state board of education play in mental health integration in schools? There are many challenges in this mission, but action is crucial to protect students’ mental health and ensure a safe learning environment in schools. Thankfully, there are more than a few methods to get this process started.
Giving Schools What They Need
Many schools don’t have access to the resources needed to prioritize mental health in schools. A state board of education could certainly promote mental health by providing resources, like toolkits and educational materials, to educators. Some schools have even integrated school-wide training for their faculty, like this program financially supported by the Virginia Education Association. Programs like Belleville, Illinois’ Youth Mental Aid seminar give teachers the tools they need to handle students’ mental health issues, leading to a healthier school environment.
Giving Students Who They Need
An estimated one in five students struggle with some form of mental illness, and these students need adults to talk to — and it’s more likely that students will seek out help while in school than not. In more rural areas, sometimes the only mental health experts around are ones employed by the school. Through employing educators with a mental health background, state boards of education will provide students with adults prepared to help them deal with their situations. When searching for new faculty, keep an eye out for someone who also has education or training in a field similar to mental health. Employing psychologists and counselors is an invaluable asset to students.
Setting Goals for Mental Health Integration in Schools
After providing these assets for students, setting goals for mental health integration will help the process. For example, schools can set aside a day every week where educators use twenty minutes to discuss mental health and the resources available for students. Using their educational toolkit, it will be easier for teachers to monitor progress and areas which need work. These goals will help display the results, the strengths, and the weaknesses of the program. Technology can also help schools monitor and address students’ mental health concerns. Content monitoring systems like LearnSafe detect indications of mental health crises on school computers. For instance, LearnSafe’s customizable library can include mentions of suicide or self-harm. LearnSafe gives administrators the information they need to help their most vulnerable students.
Finding Outside Funding
To promote extensive mental-health programs, schools require funds. The state board of education should provide schools with information about applying for grants and other financial resources. These grants could be provided by a state or local agency. For example, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) provides funding and training for teachers. Grants like this educate and financially support those involved in mental health integration, so the board of education would find these a quality investment.
Text by Claire Manasco