School-based mental health services include a broad range of activities and services, including: formal assessment, prevention strategies, or interventions such as counseling, consultation, and referrals for services and supports in the community. These services are important to a school’s ability to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for all students, address classroom behavior and discipline, promote students’ academic success, prevent and respond to crisis, support students’ social-emotional needs, identify and respond to a serious mental health problem, and support and partner with at-risk families. Many school-based mental health services are provided by school-employed guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and paraprofessionals. They are specially trained and work to help children be successful at school through a variety of activities such as: providing screenings to assess the severity of learning or behavior problems; teaching social skills, conflict resolution, and stress management; providing guidance about appropriate courses to take; or helping children manage medications or treatments for existing health and mental health symptoms. Often these staff are able to link children and their families with more comprehensive services to meet a variety of basic needs.
Some schools partner with community-based mental health providers to provide these additional services in the school building to be more convenient for children and families. Community-employed mental health providers may be able to provide a more holistic approach when addressing a child’s mental health compared to school-based workers that takes into account the impact on family, community, work, and school functioning for the child and their family as a system.
In some communities, there are “School-Based Health Clinics” where students and their families can come to the school for medical, dental, social-emotional, and/or behavioral health services. School-based health clinics are staffed by trained medical personnel and can address a range of prevention and treatment services. In Connecticut, parents can find more information about school-based health clinics by going to the Connecticut Association of School-Based Health Centers website. In your state, you can ask for a list of school-based health clinics from the Department of Public Health, the Department of Education or your Board of Education.