With student mental health needs spiking, schools need tools and tactics to help all students recover emotionally and academically

Can your schools keep pace with student mental health demands?


With student mental health needs spiking, schools need tools and tactics to help all students recover emotionally and academically

Having those daily reminders models an approach that catalyzes movement by teaching them the critical skills they need to tackle big problems one step at a time. That momentum of movement is everything for a student who is struggling, and when they learn to take control of daily steps, they feel increased confidence, focus, and progress. This fuels their energy, and the negative spiral is reversed.

2. Personalized Coaching: SEL lessons are just one piece of the puzzle; helping students internalize their learning and apply concepts to their individual lives and goals is what really helps drive change.

Students who are struggling with mental health also need the support and guidance of a mental health coach. These coaches—which can either be trained staff within a school building or contracted through a service provider—act as the bridge between “knowing” and “doing.”

Their role is to work with students to identify and set goals across their personal, emotional, social, and academic domains; as students complete their SEL instruction, they have a dedicated and invested adult they can go to to feel seen, heard, valued, and respected. The coach models empathy and helps the student take what they learn in lessons and apply it to their goals and barriers, so the whole process fuels change. Having that dedicated adult is critical to the successful transition from intervention (Tier 2) back to universal instruction (Tier 1); without adequate personnel, schools are likely to see little reduction in the size of the need for intervention.

3. An Off-Ramp: By definition, an intervention is not a long-term solution. To address the increasing need for Tier 2 intervention, our primary goal must be to disrupt the underlying behaviors and challenges that are affecting the students’ ability to participate in the daily expectations of school and society, and then to discharge them from the intervention once they are capable of doing that. Ideally, schools would see just 5-10 percent of their students requiring secondary behavioral intervention. We shouldn’t approach this as a forever problem, or we risk making it into one; schools need to have an off-ramp that is accessible to students and families that clearly articulates the expectations and requirements for students to ultimately move back into universal SEL instruction.

This pandemic may have been once-in-a-lifetime, but if we don’t move quickly to address the mental health needs of students, the effects of the past two years will last a lifetime, and possibly generations.

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