On May 24th the Child Mind Institute released its second annual Children’s Mental Health Report, which this year focuses on the effects of childhood mental health disorders in schools and the potential benefits of school mental health care.
To mark the release, the Child Mind Institute held a small gathering of educators and clinicians in its New York offices to talk about the critical issues of behavioral and emotional health in schools. Representatives from Chapin, Teach for America, the Child School, New York City DOE, KIPP, Fusion Academy and Success Academy, among others, heard Dr. Harold Koplewicz discuss some of the sobering statistics on in the report, as well as effective approaches to mental health problems in the school environment.
The discussion was wide-ranging, including a presentation on the Child Mind Institute’s school-based teacher training and intervention effort from David Anderson, PhD, director of the ADHD and Behavior Disorders Center. The educational professionals had kind words for the data in the report on prevention programs and interventions that work, but also highlighted critical barriers to improving school-based mental health. One major one: the information about how transformative these simple early behavior programs can be does nothing if it doesn’t find the ears of parents, teachers, and the rest of the school community.
Another educator brought up a point that hit home: the dire warnings about the negative effects of so many environmental, systemic and social factors on kids’ success in school can make parents feel like they have no control. Whether it is the “toxic stress” that seems pervasive in our society, the perpetual shortage of mental health professionals, or the harsh realities of racial and social inequality, people who care about kids can feel helpless.
The good news is that the prevention programs, mental health interventions and whole-school approaches to reforming discipline outlined in the Children’s Mental Health Report are designed to empower parents and teachers and help kids past hurdles like those mentioned above. It won’t be easy to get programs like these widely introduced in our nation’s schools, but it is critical for our students. And a strong partnership between mental health professionals, teachers and parents is a great place to start.