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Addendum: Mental Health Awareness Programs in Schools

April 11, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Ramon Martinez III and Dr. Alan Moss

Executive Summary 

Mental health difficulties are common among young people and the mental health of elementary and secondary school students has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic broadly. State policies have implemented various school-based mental health programs and academic studies are evaluating the role that school-based mental health programs may have in promoting emotional and behavioral wellness in this age group. Proposed in the 2022 legislative session, SB 1057 would require that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) develop a program for high school students on mental health awareness. Based on this plan, public high schools in Missouri would be required to integrate mental health awareness programming into health or physical education curricula.  

Highlights 

  • Roughly 20% of youth experience a mental health difficulty each year; schools have been identified as one avenue to administer mental health services.
  • Important features of school mental health training programs include: 1) coping and help-seeking training, 2) social and emotional training, and 3) psychological education.
    • The most effective programs are adaptable and involve student and teacher engagement.
  • Missouri schools can currently receive no-cost Mental Health First Aid training made possible by federal relief funding.
  • A study of mental health first aid programming for school personnel found that the majority of participants had increased mental health literacy, decreased stigma toward mental health issues, and reported more confidence in identifying and interacting with students undergoing mental health difficulties. 

Limitations 

  • Many studies are focused on children under the age of 12 years. Therefore, further research is needed for the applicability of existing programs and whether they can be effective long-term for older children.
  • Most studies on youth mental health first aid training effectiveness investigated adult personnel who work with children. There is less data on programs where students are the target audience for the mental health first aid training.
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