Children today are increasingly victims of many social forces that negatively affect their role as students. Good mental health is critical to children’s success in school and life. Research demonstrates that students who receive social–emotional and mental health support achieve better academically. School climate, classroom behavior, on-task learning, and students’ sense of connectedness and well-being all improve as well. Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness but also encompasses social, emotional, and behavioral health and the ability to cope with life’s challenges. Left unmet, mental health problems are linked to costly negative outcomes such as academic and behavior problems, dropping out, and delinquency.
School counselors, school psychologists, licensed clinical professional counselors and school social-workers provide the vast majority of school-based services. They are specially trained in school system functioning and learning, as well as how students’ behavior and mental health impacts their ability to be successful in school. Areas of expertise include but are not limited to: education law, curriculum and instruction, classroom and behavior management, individual and group counseling, learning disabilities, school safety and crisis response, effective discipline, cultural competence, and consultation with educators, families and community providers.
Increased access to mental health services and supports in schools is vital to improving the physical and psychological safety of our students and schools, as well as academic performance and problem-solving skills. School mental health supports that encompass social–emotional learning, mental wellness, resilience, and positive connections between students and adults are essential to creating a school culture in which students feel safe and empowered to report safety concerns, which is proven to be among the most effective school safety strategies. Additionally, in the aftermath of a crisis, school-employed mental health professionals provide supports that facilitate a return to normalcy, are sustainable, and can help to identify and work with students with more intense or ongoing needs.
Comprehensive mental health services are most effective when provided through a multitiered system of supports (MTSS) but school-employed mental health professionals. MTSS encompasses the continuum of need, enabling schools to promote mental wellness for all students, identify and address problems before they escalate or become chronic, and provide increasingly intensive, data-driven services for individual students as needed. Access to adequate staffing of school-employed mental health professionals is essential to the quality and effectiveness of these services.
Maine DOE School and Student Support staff work closely with colleagues in the Departments of Health and Human Services and other statewide partners to maximize the effectiveness and efficient delivery of resources that help students thrive emotionally and socially.