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Stronger Together: Mental Health

Part of Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.

Mental Health and Well-Being of All

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The entire education community has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The community has experienced high levels of stress from the disruption of daily lives and worries about the physical health of oneself and others, and many have been under financial strains. For many, especially children, living with these strains in the household and community, the stress and trauma threaten to have long-lasting negative impacts on the body and brain. Each person will need additional supports and systems that will help to rebalance and refocus on the task of learning and being productive in a school community.

When considering the reopening of schools, LEAs should contemplate not only the physical health of their constituents but also their mental health and wellness and make it a priority within their planning. LEAs should examine the availability and accessibility of mental health resources and supports for their students, families, and staff members as they return to school, continue distance learning, or participate in a blended model. LEAs should ensure that strong partnerships with mental health supports are created and a system is in place to allow for student and staff support referrals without wait time. This checklist is intended to help local LEAs in their planning for the reopening of schools.

Tier 1: Universal Supports: Whole School Safety and Prevention Planning

  • What is the LEA doing to promote wellness of students on a daily basis?
    • Conduct universal screening to identify social–emotional needs of students.
    • Share student mental health need assessment data with stakeholders during LCAP stakeholder engagement process.
    • Encourage school boards to adopt policies that support staff and student wellness.
    • Consider strategies to become a trauma-responsive school system to support the school community.
    • Conduct routine check-ins using a trauma- and resilience-informed lens.
    • Develop a system to connect with students and families to promote attendance.
    • Engage with students and families using culturally responsive techniques.
  • Are staff trained in providing supports through a trauma-informed and responsive lens?
    • Use Psychological First Aid to assess immediate needs and provide support.
    • Use professional development time to increase trauma knowledge and skills.
  • What is the LEA doing to reduce the stigma associated with accessing services?
    • Engage staff in professional development about mental health destigmatization.
  • Has the LEA adopted a suicide prevention policy?
    • Share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 widely. (Include it on staff and secondary student ID cards.)
    • Include mental health and wellness resources on district and school websites and in communications with families (newsletters, emails, texts, robocalls, etc.).
  • Has the LEA engaged the school community and mental health practitioners in a survey to understand its constituents’ needs in order to build upon existing assets and determine the current mental health needs of staff, students, and families? (For example, the CDE offers a free CalSCHLS Learning from Home Survey External link opens in new window or tab..)
    • Conduct schoolwide mental health assessment that includes trauma and stress.
    • Assess and review necessary staffing ratios to meet student needs (teachers, support services, etc.).

Tier 1: Community and Family Engagement and Support

  • How are LEAs engaging community-based and local government partners in supporting the mental wellness of staff and students?
    • Collaborate with stakeholders, such as county behavioral health departments and local HMOs and PPOs, to promote staff wellness and provide workshops and supports regarding adult and student mental health, trauma responsiveness, suicide prevention, and resilience.
    • Suggest all LEAs (county offices of education, districts, and school sites) include information and links to increase access to mental health and wellness resources.
    • Share resources for basic needs: food banks, Medi-Cal, Covered California, energy programs, Section 8 housing, prescription and patient assistance programs, unemployment supports, local job postings, local CalFresh and food distribution, free internet access, etc.
    • Provide a link to CDE’s Resources for Students in Crisis.

Tier 1: Universal Supports: Staff Wellness

  • What supports are available to promote staff wellness and prevent burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary traumatic stress?
    • Provide trainings on secondary traumatic stress and self-care (e.g., Support for Teachers Affected by Trauma [STAT]).
    • Promote mindfulness techniques and staff social supports.
    • Provide routine communication (in-person or virtual) to staff members to encourage self-care, including examples, and examples of wellness (e.g., saying no, accepting oneself and others, and not being at 100% all the time).
    • Promote the use of staff support groups to enhance staff cohesion and coping.
    • Provide a monthly informational insert in staff checks about mental wellness and local resources.

Tier 1: Classroom Strategies

  • How do LEAs promote safety and consistency in the classroom?
    • Establish and implement daily routines for both in-person and remote delivery.
    • Include stress management or mindfulness practices in daily classroom routine.
    • Consider impact of stress and trauma when assessing and supporting students.
    • Use restorative circles (in-person and virtually).

TIER 2/3: Early and Targeted Intervention for Students and Staff

  • What supports are currently in place to assist students and staff with mental health issues?
    • Provide staff with resources from their Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
    • Align district funding, policies, and programs to fully support mental wellness for students and staff.
    • Implement or scale up Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to promote social–emotional competencies among students. Promote and support adult SEL.
    • Maintain or expand student mental health services using LCFF, ESSA Title II and IV funds, or other leveraged resources.
  • What technology is being used to deliver mental health services remotely? Is this technology platform HIPAA or FERPA compliant? Is it secure?
    • Review district policy and coordinate with mental health partners to ensure confidentiality.
    • Assess what supports are currently in place to assist students with mental health issues.
    • Encourage students to use counseling services as needed. Promote messaging to remove stigma.
    • See that staff are trained in evidence-based practices (CBITS, SSET, DBT for Schools, etc.).
    • Provide information about and access to tele-behavioral health services for counseling services (group, individual).

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Questions:   California Department of Education | COVID19@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Monday, June 8, 2020
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