- A best-practice for getting students the mental health supports they need is offering a tiered approach, where everyone gets certain supports and students with additional needs get more specialized help.
- NPR Ed reports that can mean, at the basic level, that entire school communities are organized around general well-being and inclusion, with structures and trauma-informed practices that prevent issues before they have a chance to develop.
- From there, social workers can intervene to help students who still struggle, finding out the extent of their problems and where they come from, but some of the highest-need students still end up being referred to outside clinical help or visiting psychiatrists, if schools have those partnerships.
Research has found about 20% of students in today’s schools have some type of mental health disorder, which can necessarily get in the way of their learning. But under-resourced schools can have an especially difficult time identifying them and getting them the services they need. Even in wealthy school districts, the challenge is hard to address. Some students simply do not want to be found out.
In high-poverty schools, many children arrive for class having experienced some type of trauma, whether it is food or housing insecurity or witnessing violence at home or in their neighborhoods. This can lead to anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In New York City’s Riverdale Avenue Community School, Principal Meghan Dunn has made it a priority to get additional social workers in the building to address these needs of her students, freeing up teachers to focus on academics.