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What is (Expanded) School Mental Health?

The practice of "school mental health" in recent years has taken on a much broader meaning, with an increasing emphasis on the host of possibilities that schools provide for clinicians, teachers, administrators, students, families, and community members to collaborate in promoting the overall well-being of all students.  To the extent that you are capitalizing on these possibilities in your school, you are thinking "outside the box" and practicing "expanded" school mental health (ESMH).

Expanded school mental health (ESMH) looks beyond traditional therapeutic approaches to working with youth and recognizes the need for many different disciplines to collaborate in promoting mental health.  While the ESMH framework continues to recognize the usefulness of traditional modalities to meet certain mental health needs with certain students, the framework places a strong emphasis on prevention programming, positive youth development programming, comprehensive medical/wellness programming, classroom- and school-wide health-promotion and climate-enhancement initiatives, and so forth.

The effort to utilize an ESMH framework is much more than an academic exercise.  Rather, real gains are to be had when practitioners thoughtfully reflect on how they can "expand"/build on programs that already exist in their schools--for example, programs reflecting the work of school psychologists, social workers, counselors, and in some cases other staff, such as school nurses, and teachers with particular expertise in addressing behavioral issues in students.  Whatever your location and whatever your circumstances, a vision of progress toward "expanding" your school's mental health services is criitical to the school's sustained effectiveness in meeting the needs of its students, not to mention your own sustainability in working to meet these needs (i.e., ESMH makes your work more efficient). 

The School Mental Health Connection can assist you in your practice of ESMH to the extent that the site facilitates the sharing of resources and intervention opportunities across stakeholders and disciplines. Also, the School Mental Health Connection increasingly will provide resources addressing the actual process of building an effective ESMH system in your school.  In the meantime, if you would like to reflect further on the key issues confronting others attempting to advance "expanded school mental health" both nationally and internationally, please sample from the following links:

Developing Collaborative ESMH Programs

Funding Expanded School Mental Health Programs

Outcomes of Expanded School Mental Health Programs

Center for School Mental Health (Home Page)