Section 1: Overview of School Mental Health

This guide is not going to outline the case for school mental health here since there are many resources that help school systems, health care systems, and mental health systems understand the importance of comprehensive school mental health.

School mental health is heavily aligned with school and health care initiatives happening across the state of California, including:

  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
  • Social and Emotional Learning
  • Community Schools
  • Trauma-informed classrooms and practices
  • Suicide prevention policies in schools
  • Restorative Justice

While this guide curates tools for building school mental health services and programs, none of this should happen in isolation from other school and county initiatives.

Triangle with text showing tiered services with Intensive at top, Targeted in middle, and Universal at the bottom.Implementing School Mental Health includes addressing the school environment and policies that dictate staff and students’ daily experiences. School mental health initiatives are not just about increasing access to specific interventions or services but also about addressing the whole school community and climate. All of the above mentioned initiatives work to create more positive school climates and cultures with supportive student and staff relationships. This work, alongside more targeted services for students that need more intensive support, create a comprehensive approach to increasing student mental health.

A note about language: we try to use the terminology, “mental health,” consistently throughout this guide to cover the continuum of school-based services, from prevention to treatment, that address a student’s sense of wellbeing. However, some linked resources use the terminology, “behavioral health.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines behavioral health as “the promotion of mental health, resilience, and wellbeing; and the treatment of mental and substance use disorders.”

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