Colorado schools get help to provide mental health resources

Online toolkit offers step-by-step plan

DENVER — May is Mental Health Awareness month, and Mental Health Colorado is pushing for schools to be primary resources for kids facing a mental health issue.

"The first signs of mental illness typically appear during adolescence, but most people don't get the care they need until eight or 10 years later, if they ever get it at all," says Andrew Romanoff, Mental Health Colorado's president and CEO.

Mental Health Colorado says addressing mental health in schools leads to improved school climate, academic outcomes and student wellness.

The group has published an online toolkit with a step by step plan to implement programs and services for students. There are also guidelines for helping teachers access mental health care.

According to Mental Health Colorado, one in four high school students in our state has felt so sad or hopeless at some point that it affected their daily activity. One in seven high schoolers has thought about suicide.

The toolkit outlines a 10 step plan for addressing mental health in schools:

  1. Make mental health part of an overall wellness strategy
  2. Screen for and identify issues to refer students to needed services
  3. Incorporate social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools
  4. Establish and use school-based health centers (SBHCs) for mental health and substance use services in addition to physical health care
  5. Create partnerships with mental health professionals
  6. Emphasize teacher wellness
  7. Reduce stigma
  8. Use positive behavioral intervention and supports (PBIS)
  9. Incorporate trauma- informed principles
  10. Prioritize suicide prevention

The toolkit also includes resources to help schools find funding sources for programs. Many schools in Colorado have received funding through grants, or partnered with mental health providers in the community to get services into schools.

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