It is critical to address the systemic racism that students, families, and communities experience. School mental health sits between two structures and systems – education and health care, particularly mental health care – that have deep histories in racist practices and structural biases. Many of which still exist today and because of this, each action or decision made must be actively anti-racist in order for our initiative to achieve equity.
While this is a separate section to highlight the importance, using an anti-racist and equity lens is integral and needs to be woven into every aspect of implementing school mental health.
Addressing equity and creating anti-racist schools and school-based services is deep, challenging, ongoing work. This is not one step or one section in the process of building school mental health programs and services.
These are values, practices, critical conversations, and lifelong learning and humility that must be knitted throughout our school mental health partnerships, planning, and implementation.
Most importantly, consideration must be given to integrate this hard work from the beginning and on an ongoing basis.
In this guide, there are a number of resources that explore anti-racist and structural biases in mental health delivery, organizations broadly, and school mental health systems specifically.
As leaders in regional, county, or local organizations and agencies interested in building school mental health systems and programs, please consider these questions as you explore the ongoing work of dismantling biases, racism, and white supremacy in the initiatives you create:
- Reimbursement and sustainability for school mental health services (for example, through Medi-Cal funding) is currently inextricably connected to determinations of eligibility. How does this structure based on eligibility and classifying students for care create barriers to care through a deficit model, often deeply connected to structural biases?
- Are school mental health services structured (i.e. referral protocols, coordination) to be in-service to or as an alternative to punitive discipline practices (i.e. suspensions, expulsions, and interactions with police)? Research shows that school discipline practices have a disproportionately negative impact on students of color.
- What is the racial make-up of your leadership team, decision-makers, school staff, and mental health providers? What is the racial make-up of the student body and the students receiving mental health services? Oftentimes our decision-makers, teachers, and school support staff do not reflect the student populations served which can contribute to bias in the services provided to students. Do educators, staff, and providers receive on-going training in providing culturally-responsive care?
- Explore current racial disparities in your education and mental health systems. Are students of color more likely to be suspended? Are youth of color more likely to receive a formal mental health diagnoses? Are youth of color disproportionately represented in special education? Why do these disparities exist? Everyone’s thoughts and actions have been affected by living in a systemically and structurally racist society – it is important that team members are familiar with implicit bias, how it impacts others, and recognize that even well-intentioned individuals often have room to learn.
- How are school mental health programs and interventions built on resilience, collective care, and empowerment rather than ideas of saviorism or paternalism?
(National Center for School Mental Health)
Supporting School Mental Health in the Context of Racial Violence
(Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network)
- Session 1: Learning From and With Students, Caregivers, Advocates and Systems Leaders
- Session 2: Learning from and With the School Mental Health Workforce (School Counselors, Psychologists, and Teacher Educators)
Recorded webinars from a series created to increase knowledge about the interplay between structural racism, behavioral health institutional racism, implicit bias, and behavioral health disparities. The target audience for the series includes behavioral health care leadership, administrators and managers, ethnic service managers, peer professionals, clinical supervisors, clinicians/direct care providers, and care managers. (California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions)
Rising Practices for Telehealth Series: Partnering and Listening to Youth/Students Who We Marginalize, Specifically in Their Telehealth
A two-part webinar series exploring telehealth approaches, practices, and policies to meet the mental health needs of youth we marginalize. (Pacific Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center)
Presentation slides for a training provided to school mental health providers. (Tulare County Office of Education)
(by Shawn Ginwright Ph.D., on Medium.com)
Addresses the impacts of racism and suggests Evidence Based Interventions. (SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity)
Critical-Multiculturalism, Whiteness and Social Work: Towards a More Radical View of Cultural Competence
Addresses anti-racism in social work and mental health. (Fix School Discipline)
HEARTS: A Whole School, Multi-Level, Prevention and Intervention Program for Creating Trauma-Informed Safe and Supportive Schools
One example of how to use trauma-informed mental health systems in schools to reduce exclusionary discipline (Fix School Discipline)
A guide for education leaders designed to facilitate the overhaul of deeply embedded inequities in the current educational system. (Santa Clara County Office of Education)
A website for educators with resources to address equity in schools and education. (San Diego County Office of Education)