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Mental Health and Schools: Best Practices to Support Our Students Implications for Policy, Systems, and Practice

Year: 2023

It is well documented that one in five children will experience a diagnosable behavioral health concern, and half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14.1 Strikingly, as few as 50% of these children will receive any kind of treatment and even fewer receive evidence-based treatments.2 Schooling is a legal requirement until age 16. As a result, schools encounter the vast majority of children ages 5 to 17, and are therefore a highly impactful setting to ensure children’s behavioral health needs are identified and met as quickly as possible – either through school-based supports and services or through links to services in the broader community. Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) built upon effective, culturally and linguistically responsive interventions are the most promising strategy for achieving positive student behavioral health outcomes. When well designed and implemented, these systems function harmoniously with existing academic and social-emotional learning structures, working together to facilitate positive outcomes for students. This report highlights the current strengths and barriers related to promoting healthy outcomes for students living with mental health concerns, and provides actionable recommendations and strategies to ensure that all children and families have access to the services and supports they need in order to thrive.