Positive mental health is essential to the overall health and are affected by many factors—the family, school, and community environments in which we are raised—our genetics, physical health, coping skills, and the unexpected traumatic events we may experience. Social exclusion, bullying, and poverty are known risk factors affecting mental health. One in five children are reported to have a behavioral or mental disorder, yet only a fraction of those needing services is ever referred for care. In addition, youth suicide rates have been on the rise for years.
Addressing the full continuum from mental health promotion to prevention, our work promotes social and emotional learning and positive mental health. We study and apply what we know through research, evaluation, and training and technical assistance best practices in the field on the use of evidence-based programs, curricula, and experiences for children, youth, and families. Our aim is to improve school and community environments to promote mental health and reduce violence. We do this by:
- Conducting needs assessments and environmental scans at the school, community, and state levels that examine school mental health services and linkages to community providers;
- Creating partnerships among youth- and family-serving systems to build a foundation supporting equitable mental health services and programs for diverse youth and families;
- Developing and providing tools, training, and ongoing support to help school and community leaders and staff create and sustain comprehensive school mental health programs;
- Guiding schools, community, and state stakeholders, including education and behavioral health, on examining organizational polices and processes that drive effective equitable school mental promotion and using Medicaid and other financing opportunities as a funding strategy; and
- Sharing what we learn with the growing field of mental health, public health, and education working to implement a comprehensive school mental health model in their communities.