Spotlight: Mental Health and Education

Beginning in the 1980s, education and mental health systems began to join together to better meet the mental health needs of students, with community mental health staff joining schools to augment programs and services provided by school-employed staff (e.g., school psychologists, counselors, social workers, nurses). A large and growing literature documents the many advantages of this systems integration including enhanced resources and community connections for schools, enhanced relevance and accessibility to services for the mental health system, and improved social, emotional, behavioral, and academic (SEBA) outcomes for students. Relatedly, during this time period and continuing to the present, mental health challenges of students and families have increased progressively, with an acute escalation associated with the pandemic and other societal problems (e.g., increasing political divisiveness, problematic social media and use, isolation, and loneliness). The focus of this spotlight page is to provide a range of relevant resources focusing on promotion of mental health and wellness for students and families, through improved service delivery approaches based on strong collaboration between the mental health and education systems to deliver programs focused on prevention, early intervention, and treatment.

Below you will find a curated list of articles, representing important knowledge that communities, schools, policy leaders, educators, practitioners, researchers, family advocates, and other partners can use to enhance mental-health education system partnerships, along with the key concepts to be emphasized by said partnerships. The articles included here are available without cost. I extend my best wishes to you in your own work to champion improvement of collaborative mental health-education system partnerships, a critically important strategy to support our nation’s students, families, and staff who work in/with schools.

Mark D. Weist, Professor of Clinical-Community and School Psychology at the University of South Carolina and author of the Oxford Bibliographies in Education article The Growth of Effective Mental Health Services in Schools in the United States

From Oxford Bibliographies in Childhood Studies

"From an earlier emphasis on child poverty, survival, and health, the range of well-being domains included in definitions has expanded considerably. Despite contestation of the construct and its measurement, it is probably fair to state that the well-being of children (persons under eighteen years of age) refers to their current status as assessed across a number of domains appropriate to their stage of life. At least the following are relevant: survival, health (including mental health), safety and protection, education and development, social relations, and participation."- Andrew Dawes

From Oxford Bibliographies in Education

"Internationally, many countries are striving to integrate services into schools and communities. This chapter overviews elements of policies and practices and provides resources for teachers and administrators to develop a productive program in their school."- Douglas Cheney and Thomas Morris

"School culture is “the way we do things around here”—those tangible and intangible norms and values shared by members of a school that help shape the behaviors of teachers and school leaders. This article provides a compilation of the major works that form the literature base on the topic of school culture, with an emphasis on works that discuss ways in which school leaders and teachers can utilize school culture in the service of achieving key educational goals."- Patrick J. Schuermann, James W. Guthrie and Colleen Hoy

"Counseling in schools has been occurring formally in many countries and has been present in different forms and with different time scales. In the United States, school counseling began at the beginning of the 20th century with a focus on vocational guidance, and in the United Kingdom it began in the 1960s with a very person-centered emphasis. There are different emphases and models in different countries. Counseling in schools parallels the development of counseling in general and owes much to the original thinkers and practitioners of counseling, such as Carl Rogers, but it has developed particular ways of working with children and young people and current approaches owe much to the theoreticians and practitioners who developed working through play and the arts, such as Virginia Axline."-  Carol Holliday and Colleen McLaughlin

"In recent years, mindfulness as an intervention has found its way out of clinical settings and into learning institutions such as schools and tertiary institutions, as well as informal learning settings such as the home. Two emerging and related bodies of inquiry underpin its appeal and application; one is evidence that mindfulness practice can improve cognitive functioning and emotional awareness, the other is a suggestion that mindfulness practice can also improve achievement."- Joanna Higgins and Rebecca Jane Keane

"School-wide positive behavior support (SWPBS), also known as positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), is a framework for organizing positive, proactive, and evidence-based behavioral practices within a school setting that has been implemented in more than 18,000 schools in the United States."-  Brandi M. Simonsen and George Sugai

"This article provides background and review key themes in school mental health (SMH) services, including reviewing origins and key developments, current initiatives, and evidence-based practices and culturally competent services within a multi-tiered framework of promotion/prevention, early intervention and intervention."- Mark Weist, David Riddle, Ashley Quell, Cameron Massey, and Crystal M. Kremer

"Schools and classrooms are sites of intense psycho-social activity because it is here that young people learn to express their thoughts and emotions via interactions with teachers and other students. The importance of these individual and collective psycho-social experiences cannot be understated. The ultimate purpose of schooling is to enable young people to live fulfilling and productive lives within their cultural and social context."- Nathan Berger and Jennifer Archer

"Contemporary wellness in education has grown from nurses working to address infectious diseases among school students to the belief that a well-rounded and educated individual will value and apply health principles to make informed decisions that support whole-person well-being. Along the way, colleges and universities added staff to promote wellness—to absolve faculty of having to support student’s health; and primary and secondary schools added health and wellness teachers, many primarily focused on the promotion of physical activity."- Michael P. McNeil

From Oxford Bibliographies in Psychology

"Mindfulness is a quality of consciousness whose spiritual concept is most firmly rooted in Buddhist psychology, and whose Western concept, independent of any reference to Eastern contemplative traditions, was derived from a social psychological approach. The Western conception is in many ways similar to ancient Buddhist mindfulness with respect to its consequences, but quite different with respect to how it is achieved. Put most simply, for the Buddhist mindfulness is the result of meditative practice, while for the Western practitioner it results from the process of drawing novel distinctions."- Amanda Ie, Christelle Ngnoumen, and Ellen Langer

"School psychologists can provide an important contribution through the provision of counseling services. While psychological assessment remains a foundation area separating school psychologists from other disciplines, counseling services offer school psychological service models an important juncture for impacting a multiplicity of psychological, familial, and school problems."- Tony D. Crespi and Mikayla Alicandro

"School psychology is both a general and a health service provider specialty, and school psychologists work with children, adolescents, families, and learners of all ages. They are also trained to work with the school as a system."- Frank C. Worrell

"There are at least two dimensions of student success that have been explored widely in numerous studies. One dimension is that student success in college is defined as students’ achieving their goals upon embarking on their college career. Completing academic degree programs such as bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees, or professional degrees (e.g., M.D., J.D., and so on) satisfactorily is a common characterization of student success. But not all students define success as completing a degree."- John H. Schuh

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