Key points:

  • Investing in mental health training, resources, and digital tools supports students’ immediate needs and creates a foundation for the long term
  • By leaning into the power of human connection and leveraging digital health tools, schools can proactively enhance student well-being
  • See related article: Using tech to combat trauma

Schools play a vital role in nurturing the well-being of their students. And, as the primary setting where children spend a significant portion of their time, schools are well-positioned to be an additional touchpoint in the mental healthcare continuum. This additional touchpoint is particularly critical amid mental healthcare provider shortages, enduring access challenges, and the stigma associated with these illnesses.

As a result, schools can help bridge the gap to treatment through a trauma-responsive environment, which has shown to improve student well-being, reduce chronic absenteeism, and raise student engagement. But in my experience, it will take a multipronged approach that centers relationship building, integrates digital tools, and invests in the long-term to make a difference for a school community.

Addressing student mental health starts with harnessing the power of human connection

For many children who have experienced trauma, they need to build healthy, trusting relationships with adults in order to start the process of healing. It takes meeting students where they are and being attuned to each individual’s lived experience. There’s no substitute for meaningful, consistent human connection.

Ultimately, students want to know that the people at school care about them. Compassion and empathy are vital fibers of social connection and belongingness just as much as having a genuine interest in students’ interests. When a teacher is invested in their students’ social, emotional, and academic development, it results in reciprocity, meaning children who feel supported by others will then become more invested in themselves. Also, when an educator understands the way trauma affects children, the more they will be able to help them cope.

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