Research finds that approximately one in five children and adolescents experience the signs and symptoms of a diagnosable mental health disorder each year. There are safe and effective treatments for children with emotional and behavioral disorders; however, only 20 percent of the children who need mental health and substance abuse services receive them.
Schools can be a place where mental health needs are identified and treated. However, many schools do not have enough resources to address student mental health needs. As a result children with mental health disorders are expelled from early education settings, drop out of high school, and enter the juvenile justice system as opposed to getting treatment.
The link between a children’s school experience and his or her mental health is clear. The Children’s Mental Health Campaign promotes strategies to remove the barriers that prevent children with mental and behavioral health problems from having a successful school experience and reaching their full potential.
All children need safe and supportive school environments to achieve their full potential. This means implementing initiatives to prevent bullying, lower the dropout rate, reduce truancy, and create a learning environment that is sensitive to students who have behavioral health conditions or have experienced trauma. The Children’s Mental Health Campaign advocated for the inclusion of the Safe and Supportive Schools framework in Chapter 284 of the Acts of 2014, which focused on gun control. The provision requires schools to develop an action plan for creating safe and supportive environments and also establishes a commission and great program to assist schools through recommendations, grant programs, and technical assistance.
Schools are an important potential point of screening and intervention for students who are at risk of drug or alcohol abuse. The Children’s Mental Health Campaign is advocating for school nurses or other appropriate health or support staff to screen students for substance abuse and provide positive reinforcement or brief interventions and, in cases where safety is a concern, referrals to treatment. Learn more about the CMHC’s work to promote screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) is schools.