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Back to School: Tips for Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Well-Being

School mental health (SMH) professionals play a critical role in supporting the mental health and well-being of students. The tips provided below will help school mental health clinicians and trainees to be successful this academic year.


 

Take Care of Self: SMH professionals serve as a first line of defense for students’ mental health making them vital to the school community. Despite their importance, SMH professionals often navigate stressful work environments that may cause burnout and limit their ability to provide effective services (Bardhoshi & Um, 2021; Maor & Hemi, 2020; Mullen et al., 2021; Yand & Hayes, 2020). Healthy school personnel can help ensure healthy students. SMH professionals should attend to their personal well-being as they work to take care of students. Personal well-being focuses on the satisfaction, fulfillment, and sense of purpose among SMH professionals (Mental Health Technology Transfer Center; MHTTC). It consists of five primary areas—physical, occupational, intellectual, social, and emotional—all important for SMH professionals to thrive. To learn more about how to assess and address provider well-being, please see the resources below:

  • Provider Wellbeing was adapted in collaboration with the Central East MHTTC, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, and the Georgetown University Medstar Hospital/Georgetown University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. The website provides free individual wellbeing assessment, information that can effectively assess and improve both personal and professional well-being for behavioral healthcare providers in an array of settings, including schools.

  • Proqol provides a free assessment tool—the Professional Quality of Life Scale—that examines SMH professionals’ and others’ compassion satisfaction and fatigue, including burnout and secondary traumatic stress. It is housed on ProQOL Health, a website developed to improve the self-care and overall well-being of healthcare providers.


Sharpen Your Cultural Responsiveness: To best meet the needs of all students, SMH professionals benefit from strengthening their cultural responsiveness. Culturally responsive school mental health includes promoting school environments that are fitting for racially minoritized students and providing services and practices that align with their backgrounds (Malone et al., 2021). How can SMH professionals sharpen their cultural responsiveness?

  • Engage in Life-long Self-Reflection: Self-reflection is an ongoing journey that can help to increase cultural humility and awareness. School Mental Health Ontario developed a helpful Cultural Humility Self-Reflection Tool that SMH professionals can use to reflect on their current skills, knowledge, and awareness of culture.

  • Get Involved in the Community: Engaging with local community organizations can help SMH professionals to build relationships with people from different backgrounds and provide insight into the experiences of students and families.


Update Your Resources: Expand your resources this school year! Here are some of our favorites:

  • The SHAPE System provides free school- and district-level mental health quality assessment tools and resources. Assessments include the School Mental Health Quality Assessment, which assesses the comprehensiveness of school mental health systems using 7 best practice domains, the Trauma Responsive Schools Implementation Assessment, which assesses the quality of trauma responsive programming in schools, and the Organizational Well-Being Inventory Assessment, which examines wellbeing at the school-level using 8 domains.

  • 7 Mindsets offers xSEL Labs, which provides an assessment tool to evaluate students’ socioemotional competencies and needs as well as instructional resources.

  • The National Center for School Mental Health and Danya Institute offer the School Mental Health Virtual Learning Series—free webinars tailored to school mental health practice. Topics include, but are not limited to, supporting newcomer, LGBTQ, and BIPOC students, establishing school-community partnerships, and assessing school climate. All previous webinars are recorded and provided on the National Center for School Mental Health’s website.



 

Authors:


Jerica Knox

Dr. Jerica Knox is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Center for School Mental Health. She examines school practices, such as trauma-informed and culturally responsive care, that promote well-being in racially minoritized students.


Nancy Lever

Dr. Nancy Lever is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland and Co-Director of the National Center for School Mental Health. She works to advance comprehensive school mental health systems through research, training, and technical assistance.

Dr. Nancy Lever is an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland and Co-Director of the National Center for School Mental Health. She works to advance comprehensive school mental health systems through research, training, and technical assistance.

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