Helping Schools with Their Mental Health NeedsMay is Mental Health Month (if you hadn’t heard), and in keeping with that theme, it’s good to check in to see where mental health resides in various places in society.

One of those places is in our schools. Schools can be a helpful frontline in the identification — through screening programs — of at-risk children and teens who may get a mental disorder. In the past decade, schools have also become a necessary component of ensuring students who need mental health treatment have access to something that can help.

But University of Missouri researchers caution that when it comes to mental health programs in schools, one size does not fit all. Just trying to implement research-based solutions without truly understanding what the problem is in a particular school or school district is unlikely to help.

One of the growing trends today in medicine and mental health care is to rally for “evidence based treatments” (or EBTs). The problem with evidence-based treatments and program based upon the research is that people often don’t take into account the specific and unique needs or circumstances of the person needing the treatment.

In schools, this translates into attempting to implement mental health education and similar programs based upon the research, with little appreciation or understanding of the unique culture of the school. What results are programs that see much lesser results than the research would suggest they should see.

What Dr. Melissa Maras and her colleagues suggest is simple — you need to work from a community-based perspective first. Implement the research-based results slowly into the existing program, and be sensitive to the unique and specific needs of the environment where you’re implementing the program. You can’t just barrel in, attempt to start with a clean slate and say, “Well, this is what the research shows, so this is what we’re going to implement.”

You can, but you’ll find disappointing results.

Maras makes a lot of sense, and it’s a call to rationality that sometimes both researchers, clinicians and program administrators miss in their anxiety to adopt whatever the latest trend is. A lot of existing good comes from the programs in use in schools today. Gradually building upon those successes with more evidence-based techniques and models seems like a sure-fire way to not only ensure better adoption, but better outcomes as well.

Read the full article: Schools Need Collaboration, Not Packaged Solutions, for Best Mental Health Programs