Guest Blog: Betsy Basch, CSI Mental Health Programs Specialist
Mental health is a critically important part of overall wellness as has become even more evident over the course of the pandemic. Schools have been hit especially hard by this current mental health crisis, with a national emergency in children’s mental health being declared in 2021 and more than 70% of middle & elementary school principals noting they do not have enough staff to navigate the mental health crisis.
There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of social emotional learning in addressing mental health in our school communities.
Students who receive high-quality SEL demonstrate an 11 PERCENTILE point gain on academic achievement exams.
Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D., & Schellinger, K. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development: 82 (1), 405-432.
Teachers who have high SEL skills are more likely to stay in the classroom and stay in education longer.
Jennings, P.A. & Greenberg, M.T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. American Educational Research Association.
For every dollar that is invested in SEL, 11 dollars are saved by avoiding costly more intensive interventions.
Belfield, C., Bowden, B., Klapp, A., Levin, H., Shand, R., & Zander, S. (2015). The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning. New York: Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education.
As we start a new year, here are some actions to take to address mental health in schools:
- Make social-emotional learning (SEL) a foundation at your school and integrate SEL practices into your MTSS framework. Use the sample statement below to personalize your commitment in school newsletters.
- Celebrate healthy social-emotional behaviors. Demonstrate and model: taking time away for a joyful activity, establishing and participating in healthy routines at school.
- Reevaluate your SEL curriculum. Does your curriculum address the goals and mission of your school? Does it strengthen the behaviors your students need?
- Reassess your referral process. How efficiently can you identify students who need support? Do you have a referral process?
- Revisit your universal screener data. Are your interventions having the intended impact?
- Refine and develop your leadership communication. How leaders behave during stressful situations can make a difference in how others respond and react. Use this resource: Anticipating and Responding to Stressful Events.
- Develop a wellness team and design a sustainable structure to implement weekly actionable wellness plans. You don’t have to wait until next year! You can start now!
- Rethink restoration. Are we punishing students for experiencing mental health symptoms or are we teaching them SEL skills? What SEL skills do students learn when they are removed from their academic support system?
- Add in student and parent voice to your SEL commitment. Host a town hall, a listening session, and/or send out a survey
- Use these points in your school newsletter to talk to your academic community about the commitments you are making to address mental health. We’ve already done the work for you, just copy & fill in details to make it personalized to your community!
Developing and supporting social emotional wellbeing offers tools to address mental health challenges.
Various mental health resources can be accessed on the CSI Mental Health Resources webpage. At CSI, we are here to partner with you and provide support. Contact Betsy Basch, CSI’s Mental Health Program Specialist today to schedule a meeting to discuss implementation or problem-solve addressing needs in your community.
Sample Commitment to SEL Statement
As has become even more evident over the course of the pandemic, mental health is a critically important part of overall wellness, and we have seen that impact in our community. Schools just like ours have been hit especially hard by this current mental health crisis, with a national emergency in children’s mental health being declared in 2021 and more than 70% of middle & elementary school principals noting they do not have enough staff to navigate the mental health crisis.
What this means for us is starting tomorrow, every single teacher will have time allotted in each class to engage in relationship building, which we know is the foundation of competent SEL response, academic engagement, and attendance. We will be initiating a school-wide wellness team that will help us infuse wellness into our everyday lives and celebrate the actions we take to better ourselves to be great community members. We will also start hosting monthly listening sessions with our staff, students & parents to reflect on our actions, and if they’re having the impact on wellness that we want to have. We are making a commitment to our present & future health or every one of our community members. Will you join us on our journey?