5 Pillars: The Pathway to Improving the Delivery of Mental Health Services in Education

The mental health needs of our nation’s youth have become an issue of great concern over the past decade. As the rates of mental illness among children and adolescents rise exponentially, a comprehensive and integrated approach to meet their needs must be developed.

Research has long established that a community approach to mental health is highly effective. Further, it has also been consistently documented that bringing mental health services to a community is much more successful than having children and their families go beyond their communities for services. As such, school systems become the ideal location to meet the mental health needs of children and adolescents. While some school systems across the nation have become epicenters for the delivery of mental health services, many have not. As a nation, we need to increase equitable access to mental health services for all youth.

By creating mental health systems within our schools that work in tandem with community mental health professionals and researchers, we (1) increase the likelihood of identification of students’ mental health needs at earlier stages, (2) provide a pathway to develop innovative prevention and intervention programs, (3) create an integrative system of care in which students have access to the level of treatment needed when they need it, and (4) build capacity to sustain mental health services over time.

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“We stand on the doorstep to make momentous progress in advancing the cause of this new civil rights struggle started by the work of President Kennedy over 50 years ago.”
— Patrick J. Kennedy