Mental Health Awareness Month and Speak Up for Kids

By Cowan, Katherine C. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, March/April 2012 | Go to article overview

Mental Health Awareness Month and Speak Up for Kids


Cowan, Katherine C., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a great time to highlight the importance of mental wellness and school-based mental health services to children's positive learning and development.

There is heightened urgency to the imperative to advance school-based mental health and school psychologists' expertise as essential to the provision of quality, evidence-based services. We face both risk and opportunity in the convergence of increasing needs of students, greater awareness among educators that mental health matters to achievement, shrinking education resources, and the growing influence of the communities-in-schools and school-based health center movements. We need to proactively work to develop or maintain a leadership role in the effort to ensure that students get the services they need.

This should be a year-round endeavor based primarily on effective practice, evidence-based decision-making, and clear communications. However, National Mental Health Awareness Month provides a platform to share what you know with key stakeholders. Key messages related to children's mental health include:

* Good mental health is essential to success in school and life.

* Schools are a natural place to meet children's mental health needs.

* Children who receive mental health support are happier and do better in school.

* School-based mental health services provided by trained professionals are a wise investment.

* School psychologists can provide a continuum of mental health services that support students' wellness and academic achievement.

Sample key messages related to essential role of school psychologists include:

* Services provided in schools should be appropriate to the learning environment and support the mission and purpose of schools. Those that are not risk being ineffective or even counterproductive.

* Just as children are not simply small adults, schools are not merely private clinics with chalkboards. Schools are unique environments with very distinct mandates, laws, and dynamics. Being trained to work within this culture is essential to being effective.

* School psychologists have specialized training in child development, mental health, learning, and school systems. Their unique expertise lies in how these elements interact to shape children's behavior, learning, and overall adjustment.

* School psychologists are skilled at consultation and collaboration and work effectively with school personnel and parents to link effective mental health interventions that lead to improved behavior, social-emotional wellness, and academic achievement.

* School psychologists are trained in systems-level prevention and strength-based wellness programs. They understand how these prevention efforts support the learning environment and individual students, as well as how they ground the three-tiered prevention and intervention model.

NASP has many online resources to help with this, including adaptable resources, handouts (see "School-Based Mental Health Services and School Psychologists" on page 38 of this issue for one example), communications tips, articles for principals, and research-based articles. See "Great Ideas for Making the Connection With Mental Health" below. In addition, this year NASP is a partner with the national Speak UP for Kids campaign to bring mental health awareness to parents and teachers.

CHILD MIND INSTITUTE'S SPEAK UP FOR KIDS CAMPAIGN

As a centerpiece for mental health promotion during May, NASP is teaming up with the Child Mind Institute's Speak Up for Kids, a free nationwide public education campaign to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental health and learning disorders in children and teens. During National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week (May 6-12, 2012) and throughout the school year, NASP members are encouraged to give talks at their schools or other work locations as part of this national effort to raise awareness about the importance of student mental health. …

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