Approximately 1 in 5 youth worldwide will experience a mental illness before they turn 25. Many will experience significant and substantial life challenges that may require help. This makes adolescence a critical time for mental health promotion, prevention, early identification, and intervention. Not addressing these issues early and effectively may lead to negative short and long term outcomes. Evidence-based mental health literacy is a scientifically-established effective foundation for all mental health improvements.
School Mental Health Literacy has four unique but integrated components:
- Understanding how to optimize and maintain good mental health,
- Understanding mental disorders and their treatments,
- Deceasing stigma, and
- Increasing health-seeking efficacy.
Schools are the ideal place to address mental health literacy as most youth attend school and the average teen spends over thirty hours per week in the classroom. The “School-Based Pathway Through Care” is a framework developed to help schools better address youth mental health in an effective, inexpensive, system strengthening, and pedagogically familiar way.
This approach has five goals:
- Promote mental health and reduce stigma by enhancing mental health literacy of students, educators and parents;
- Promote appropriate and timely access to mental health care through early identification, support, triage and referral from schools to health services, or through site-based mental health interventions;
- Enhance effective linkages between schools and health care providers;
- Provide a framework in which students receiving mental health care can be seamlessly supported in their educational needs within usual school settings;
- Involve parents and the wider community in addressing the mental health needs of youth.
This approach is comprised of interrelated sectors that when linked together create this integrated pathway. They include:
- Mental health promotion through mental health literacy for youth, educators, and families;
- Training for teachers, student services providers, and primary care providers, with knowledge upgrading for mental health professionals, to facilitate early identification, prevention and intervention;
- Processes for coordination and collaboration between schools and their communities;