Addressing Mental Health in Public School Education

CPMHA wants to work with the public school system to identify common pain points and struggles and mentor the teachers and staff on how to guide their students. Combating these challenges at early ages and developmental stages help prevent mental health issues later in life. This would be a generational breakthrough in chronic pain and emotional and physical health.

CPMHA wants to support the new public-school programs:

As funding dollars and financial resources diminish, an increased need exists for partnerships and collaborative efforts between mental health professionals and community resources.

One such example is the partnership that has been cultivated between public school systems and community mental health agencies. New programming has developed in the form of school-based mental health service teams. These teams are formulated as an extension of outpatient services, provided to the child and family within the school environment through individual and family therapy, case management and access to psychiatric services. Providing mental health services in the community encourages systems to work in collaboration to address the complex issues and diagnoses that we see in child and adolescent mental health.  CPMHA wants to provide this support.

The necessity for additional support, training, consultation and clinical intervention within the academic environment has grown as school funding shortfalls have reduced the number of school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists available to address the emotional and behavioral needs of school-age children. Economic difficulties, lack of transportation and the growing need for two-income households has increased the rate of noncompliance to appointments in the office setting. To this end, mental health agencies are finding that meeting the client in the comfort of his or her environment — home or school — leads to greater success in maintaining consistent clinical contact and achieving greater outcomes.

On average, children spend six to eight hours per day in an academic setting for at least nine months a year. Academic personnel, who are already faced with limited time and resources, experience the effects of routinely working with children who have to externalize and internalize behaviors of varying frequency and intensity and who may have diagnoses such as oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, and posttraumatic stress. This could result in increased suspensions and expulsions for students and higher rates of burnout among educators. The school-based mental health model is a collaborative approach that brings clinical knowledge and services to the child and consultation, training and intervention support to educators.

Success within the collaborative approach

Several well-known school-based support models have been developed across the country through the advocacy efforts of local school systems and community mental health agencies. The Baltimore City Public Schools’ expanded school mental health program provides a framework for the most common design for school mental health programming. Baltimore city schools invited the inclusion of comprehensive mental health services such as individual, family and group therapy, and consultation and assessment services into their building through a partnership with community mental health providers.

Similarly, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public school system in Charlotte, N.C., partnered with Behavioral Health Centers, a division of the Carolinas HealthCare System. Through this cooperative process, mental health services were provided to 24 public elementary schools.

The Salt Lake City public school system partnered with Valley Mental Health, a behavioral health care provider, to develop a treatment program that is similar to off-site day treatment programs. The program was designed to increase inclusion and support within the school environment for children with serious emotional disturbances. The integration of services within the public-school setting reduces the risk of stigma for the child while providing treatment and effective coping mechanisms in the least restrictive natural environment.

CPMHA wants to start in Florida, where there has been a call for mental health education in the classroom.

What diagnoses are schools seeing?

The prevalence of childhood mental health issues in the United States estimated to be as high as 20 percent of all children. For a variety of reasons — financial, environmental, personal and cultural — underserved children were not receiving needed services an alarming 75-80 percent of the time. Considering the disparity between children identified for services and children who actually receive services, providing care in a natural environment such as a school could dramatically increase the number of children who receive therapeutic support.

At the elementary and middle school levels (ages 5-12 among children who received mental health services, 60 percent were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, while one in every eight children experienced some form of anxiety, with the median onset occurring at age 6. Anxiety in young children is often manifested in behaviors such as fidgeting, distraction, poor concentration, and irritability. These symptoms mirror those of attention deficit and can be difficult for educators to tease out without further assessment and training.

In 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that anxiety-related disorders are most common at the high school level (ages 13-18). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that 6 percent of students missed school due to anxiety related to feeling unsafe either at or on the way to school. The NIH says incidents of depression are also highly prevalent at this age, with eight of every 100 adolescents experiencing symptoms such as a drop-in grade, social isolation, diminished interest in activities of previous enjoyment and change in eating or sleeping patterns. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental health issues during adolescence contribute to more than half of all instances of students dropping out at the high school level. During their high school years, it is critical that adolescents are linked to additional therapeutic support, including external service providers and programs that can increase their sense of self. Teaching educators and administrators about early identification and increasing their knowledge of community resources can be critical to a student’s success in treatment.

By working in collaboration with the schools, treatment providers can reach those children and families who may not otherwise feel they have a trusting adult to advocate for them. Parents often view teachers, school counselors or principals, as advocates for the best interests of their children and will trust these professionals’ opinion if they say additional supports may be needed. Community clinicians and programs such as those that CPMHA will provide can assist with bridging the gap between the schools and external resources through services such as case management, mentor programs, wraparound services, and psychiatric consultation.

CPMHA’s goal is to work with the public school system and provide tools for children and parents in need.  We are going to create programs for in-school to address mental health issues and provide consistent education and support.  Part of our mission is to give coping strategies that individuals and families might find helpful.  The prevalence of mental health issues in children is extremely apparent. We hope that through the spread of useful programs and early intervention, these issues will be mitigated for children and their families.

All programs are in development. 100% of donations will go towards operations and the development of these programs

Mental Health in Adolescents Statistics

“The rate of adolescents experiencing major depression surged nearly 40 percent from 2005 to 2014, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, rising to an estimated 2.2 million depressed children ages 12 to 17, according to the most recent

federal data.”

“Teen suicides also have spiked. According to the CDC, the suicide rate among boys ages 15 to 19 increased by nearly a third between 2007 and 2015; the suicide rate among girls the same age more than doubled.”

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mental Health Emphasis in Schools


  • Teaching functional health information (essential knowledge).
  • Shaping personal values and beliefs that support healthy behaviors.
  • Shaping group norms that value a healthy lifestyle.
  • Developing the essential health skills necessary to adopt, practice, and maintain health-enhancing behaviors.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on National Health Education Standards

Understanding Children

Growth Trends

  • Boys – Mature earlier = positive socioemotional outcomes (popular, higher self-esteem, less likely to drink/smoke, more successful)
  • Girls – Mature earlier = at risk for smoking, drinking alcohol, depression, eating disorder

Learning Trends

– Bobo Doll Experiment

  • Children watching a violent video clip seemed to imitate the aggressive behavior more than those who did not view a violent video clip
  • Demonstrated the principle that expectation of reinforcement (by watching someone be rewarded) can act to reinforce a behavior

– Timing of Puberty

  • Quality of family relationship
  • – genetics
  • – Environment (nutrition and health)
  • – Body size and physical activity
  • Heavier children begin puberty earlier
  • Physically demanding exercise delays menarche
  • – Absence of the father in the home environment
  • Menarche comes earlier for girls in these hoes
  • Boys in these homes have accelerated physical development

 – Erik Erikson’s Socioemotional Development Theory

 Initiative versus guilt

  • Early childhood (preschool years, age 3-5)
  • As preschool children encounter a widening social world, they are challenged more and need to develop more purposeful behavior to cope with these challenges. Children are now asked to assume more responsibility. Uncomfortable guilt feelings may arise, though, if the children are irresponsible and are made to feel too anxious

– Industry versus inferiority

  • Middle and late childhood (elementary school years, 6 years-puberty)
  • Children are more enthusiastic than at the end of early childhood’s period of expensive imagination. As children move into the elementary school years, they direct their energy toward mastering knowledge and intellectual skills. The danger at this stage involves feeling incompetent and unproductive

– Identity versus Identity Confusion

  • Adolescence (10-20 years)
  • Individuals are faced with finding out who they are, what they are all about, and where they are going in life. An important dimension is the exploration of alternative solutions to roles. Career exploration is important

– Punishment

  • Consequence that decreases the likelihood that a behavior will occur
  • Positive Punishment
  • – Unpleasant stimulus is added, a behavior decreases when it is followed by the presentation of a stimulus
  • ■ Spanking a misbehaved child, coach makes his team run after lazy practice
  • Negative Punishment
  • Rewarding stimulus is removed, a behavior decreases when a stimulus is
  • removed, taking away something pleasant to reduce a behavior
  • Time-out, getting grounded
  • Instead of detention, school uses meditation to decrease bad behavior:

– Coping

Different Kinds of Coping

  • Problem-focused coping: attempting to reduce stress directly- can do this when we feel we have control (struggling in a class, go to tutoring)
  • Emotion-focused coping: attempting to reduce stress by managing the emotion reaction- rather than confronting the root problem (avoid going to hard class)


  • Depressants: inhibit brain activity
  • Opiates: pain relief and euphoria
  • Stimulants: increase brain activity
  • – Adderall
  • Hallucinogens: distort sensory perceptions

Natural high

Source: Info taken from McGrawHill Experience Psychology 4th Edition

What Educators Should Keep in Mind

– Warning signs

  • Sad, withdrawn
  • Self-harm
  • Unreasonable fera
  • Fights
  • Out-of-control behavior
  • Not eating, throwing up, laxatives
  • Intense worry
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Use of drugs/alcohol
  • Mood swings
  • Drastic personality changes

– Contacting principal, nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc
– Crisis support, mental health services
– In classrooms/schools

  • Educate staff, parents, students of symptoms
  • Promote social and emotional competency
  • Ensure positive, safe school environment
  • teach/reinforce positive behaviors, decision-making
  • Encourage helping others, encourage good physical health
  • Help ensure access to school-based mental health supports


How to Incorporate Mental Health Education in Schools

  • Talk about mental health to prompt open conversations
  • Train teachers and staff
  • Incorporate mental health in teaching
  • Provide helpful tools for students
  • Taking care of teachers

Source: Student Behavior Blog