• Improved emotional and behavioral functioning
• Reduction in discipline referrals
• Improved attendance
• Academic achievement
• Cost savings
Receiving school based mental health services has been shown to reduce course failures, dropout rates, and referrals to special education. Universal interventions are designed to address risk factors in entire populations and enhance positive school environments.
Research demonstrates that school mental health programs and services benefit students, teachers, and the school at-large in the following:
1. Increased Attendance
When students' mental health needs are met, they are less likely to be absent and more likely to be engaged in and have a sense of connectedness to school.
• Students with mental health problems are more often absent from school than those without mental health disturbances.
• Reduction of alcohol and drug use is associated with better attendance rates.
• Higher levels of school connectedness are related to increased optimism and academic outcomes and decreases in both depression and problem behavior.
2. Better Academic Performance
Students who are mentally healthy perform better in school.
• Students with poor grades are more likely to be students who exhibit psychological dysfunction.
• Students with serious emotional disturbance are more likely to be retained than other students with disabilities.
• Trauma or violence exposure is associated with lower grade point averages (Ratner, et al., 2006) and lower school attendance.
• Depression among youth is associated with lower academic achievement and school performance.
• Students involved in violent or delinquent behaviors produce test grades one grade below their peers who are not involved in these activities.
3. Higher Graduation Rates
Unaddressed mental health problems significantly interfere with a student's ability to graduate from high school and obtain an advanced education.
• Students with serious emotional disturbance or a diagnosable psychological problem are more likely to drop out and not complete high school.
• Exposure to violence, even moderate levels of exposure, is associated with decreased rates of high school graduation.
• Failure to attend college is associated with anxiety disorders exhibited by adolescents.
4. Improved Student Behavior
School-based intervention strategies play a role in identifying students with mental health problems as well as reducing problem behaviors such as fighting and bullying.
• Most students in need of mental health intervention do not receive adequate services.
• Schools have an important role to play in screening students for mental health problems and suicide risk.
• School-based interventions targeting social and emotional learning can improve student achievement and behavioral adjustment.
• Disruptive behavior in the classroom interferes with the learning of all students.
• On average, elementary and middle school teachers spend at least 25% of their time addressing behavioral problems in the classroom.
5. Positive School Climate
School mental health enhances the whole school environment, or school climate, which can contribute to positive academic, behavioral and social-emotional outcomes.
• Poor school climate contributes to a host of negative outcomes (e.g., behavioral and emotional problems, alcohol and tobacco use, and increased aggression) (OMHNSS Information Brief).
• Interventions that address school climate have been shown to support academic success and increase positive behavioral social-emotional outcomes (e.g. academic achievement, educational motivation, attitudes toward schoolwork, attendance).
• Findings suggest programs addressing school climate effectively promote mental health, reduce problem behaviors, increase school bonding, and enhance youth competence.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Why are mental health services important in a school setting?
Mental health services are important in a school setting because many families meet challenges while trying to access services in the larger community. These challenges may include transportation issues, complicated systems and/or long wait lists. School based mental health resources are very convenient to families because parents and guardians can access the services where their child is already attending school. Additionally, school staff have direct access to mental health professional for consultation regarding students who may be in need of services. School based mental health professionals also a play vital role in managing crisis. School based mental health staff are trained to conduct suicide risk assessments and intervene in school wide crisis.
How can students and families access services provided through School Mental Health (SMH)?
If the SMH provider is located on campus, parents and school staff can consult directly with the Psychiatric Social Worker (PSW). Students and families are always encouraged to utilize the established referral system at their particular school. If students are in need of clinic based services, school staff and parents can work together to complete the appropriate referral form and forward it to the SMH clinic that is most conveniently accessible to the student and family. Click
How can my school obtain the services of a mental health provider?
Schools have the option of purchasing PSW positions/time. PSWs provide school based mental health services based on the needs of the school community. SMH staff may be purchased on the following basis: part-time (1-4 days/week) or full-time (5 days/week). Many schools fund PSW positions using categorical funding sources. For detailed information about purchase agreements, contact the SMH Coordinator in your Educational Service Center. Click
How does optimal mental health impact student learning and achievement?
When students are impacted by psychosocial stressors, such as exposure to community or family violence; substance abuse; neglect; depression and anxiety; parental incapacity, etc., their ability to fully concentrate and focus on the instructional program is negatively impacted.
No, all services are available at no cost to families whose children are students of the LAUSD. For those families with certain insurance plans, such as Medi-Cal, SMH may be able to bill those plans and receive reimbursement for the mental health services provided to the family.
How may children encounter daily challenges that hinder learning?
A 2001 report from the U.S. Surgeon General indicates that mental health is an important component of children’s learning and their general health. In the United States there are approximately 52 million students. Unfortunately, there is an increasing prevalence of students experiencing anxiety, conduct disorder, depression, learning/attentional difficulties, and other challenges, such as familial and peer relational issues. In many large urban school districts, the majority of students experience significant behavioral, learning, and emotional challenges.
(1) Accessing and meeting the needs of students (and their families) who require mental health services is facilitated by contact through and at schools.
(2) Families are much more likely to utilize mental/physical health services if those services are located on the school campus.
(3) Addressing psychosocial and mental and physical health concerns is essential to the effective school performance of some students.
Implied in all three answers is the hope of enhancing the nature and scope of mental health interventions to fill gaps, enhance effectiveness, address problems early, reduce stigma, and fully integrate clinical and macro service efforts with general education, public health, and equity orientations
Educators have an important role in helping to address mental health concerns. Schools are where children spend most of their day, making it a unique opportunity to identify mental health concerns early and to link students with appropriate services.
However, schools cannot be responsible for meeting all the needs of their students. They must develop an understanding of what is involved in achieving the mission of schools; namely, instruction. After that, they must be ready to clarify how any component for mental health in schools helps accomplish that mission. Of particular importance is how proposed approaches help meet the demand for improving schools, reducing dropout rates, closing the achievement gap, and addressing racial, ethnic, disability and socio-economic disparities
By promoting a safe, positive, and nurturing school environment and establishing a comprehensive school model that early identifies at-risk behaviors and provides systematic interventions at all levels (school-wide, classroom and individual), students are more available to invest their energy in learning, academics, and positive peer and adult relations. This comprehensive school model must include a mental health component. Educating students, parents, and educators about mental health issues will raise awareness; promote early identification and treatment; and improve academic performance.
School-wide interventions and programs that promote whole child/family well-being and teach stress reduction and social skills to students can increase their sense of connectedness to their school. Increasing school connectedness can result in improved self-esteem, enhanced learning for children to choose positive alternatives to negative influences, and leadership skills. The use of universal screening tools and school-wide violence prevention programs, such as Second Step, has demonstrated reductions in office referrals, absenteeism, and bullying.
The following illustrates how students and families can benefit from school-based mental health services:
§ Barriers to accessing services are reduced because service are provided on a school campus that is conveniently located in the family’s community
§ Addressing the needs of students comprehensively (health, mental health, social-emotional) increases a student’s potential to perform academically
§ Students and families are familiar with the school setting and staff, they are on their own “turf,” which helps reduce stigma that may be attached to seeking services in the larger community
§ Accessing students is easy as students are already in school
§ There is increased potential for multidisciplinary (i.e. teachers, administrators, psychiatric social workers, nurses) collaboration to ensure students’ needs are met
§ Behavior and academic changes can be readily observed, assessed and identified
§ Students and families are more likely to feel comfortable discussing their concerns with trusted professionals that they know
§ There are increased opportunities for student-staff interaction which helps builds trust and relationship
§ School-based mental health providers have increased opportunities to carry out mental health promotion activities with and for students via assemblies, school-based events, and classroom discussions
§ School-based mental health providers can influence the school climate via classroom education, staff development, parent education and the development and implementation of policies which benefit and support student mental health.