Governance corner
Practical tips from our MIG faculty
Mental health supports
District and county board members are responsible for developing and supporting the whole child, including providing access to academic and extracurricular opportunities, as well as mental health supports for students and families. Data from recent research around mental health makes a clear case for providing these supports1:

  1. One in five school-aged youth in the United States experience mental health issues that interfere with learning. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for young people aged 10 to 24. Ninety percent of the youth that died due to suicide had an underlying mental illness.
  2. More than half of young people with mental health needs remain untreated or undertreated. When not adequately addressed, mental illness is linked to reduced academic achievement, increased school suspensions, chronic school absences and credit deficiency.
  3. Early intervention using evidence-based counseling supports can limit the progression of emotional distress and/or mental illness and improve students’ social, behavioral and academic functioning at school.

There are many options available when providing mental health supports to students and their families. Adding staff such as counselors and social workers and offering health hubs — which provide medical, dental and mental health services to students — are a few options. Local educational agencies can also consider community partnerships that provide mental health services that students and families so desperately need.

Board members can ask the following questions to support a discussion concerning mental health supports:

  1. How are students that would benefit from mental health services identified? What policies and procedures are in place?
  2. Have certificated and classified staff received professional development on these processes and procedures for identifying students that could be facing mental health issues? What does that professional development entail?
  3. What partnerships have been created in the community to provide these services?
  4. When addressing mental health issues, is there an equity lens to ensure each student the services that they need when they need them?
  5. What sources of funding can be used to provide these services?
  6. Is there a partnership with the county office of education to supplement services offered to student populations within a district? Are countywide partnerships being developed by county boards of education?

As LEAs address this very important issue for students and families, especially historically underserved student populations, viewing the needs and services to develop and support the whole child is paramount. It is important to keep in mind that the role of the board is to provide what each and every student needs to be successful as decisions are made concerning identification of who receives services and what the services will be. If mental health supports are not addressed, students will not reach their full potential.

1 These data points are taken from research ranging from 2007–18 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and independent researcher meta-analyses.