Klea Scharberg

Healthy in Every Way

"Today educators are interested in the whole life of the child. They are aware that experiences in school affect not only the child of today, but also the man of tomorrow. No longer is 'book learning' the total aim of the days and years of classroom attendance.

There is also the recognition that the health of the child determines his ability to deal with his school tasks. The next step toward understanding man at his various stages of development is being taken by recognizing that only the mentally healthy child can make full use of the tools for living handed him in school."

This quote is tailor-made for our look at what it means and takes for children to be mentally healthy. It was also written 63 years ago, in May 1949, by Dr. Mabel Ross, director of Prince George's County (Md.) Mental Health Clinic in ASCD's Educational Leadership magazine (read the article [PDF] and the full issue).

Children's healthy development and its effect on academic achievement is as important in schools today as it was in 1949. Just as one can be physically healthy or unhealthy, one can also be mentally healthy or unhealthy. A child's mental health is influenced by her biology, social and physical environment, and behavior, as well as the availability of services. Good emotional and behavioral health enhances a child's sense of well-being, supports satisfying social relationships at home and with peers, and facilitates achievement of full academic potential.

Steps that schools can take (PDF) to support children's mental health include

  • Developing a caring, supportive school environment for children, parents, and faculty.
  • Ensuring that every child and parent feels welcome in the school.
  • Preventing all forms of bullying as a vigorously enforced school policy.
  • Ensuring that at least one responsible adult in the school takes a special interest in each student.
  • Emphasizing and facilitating collaboration between home and school.
  • Training faculty and parents to recognize the risk factors and warning signs of depression.
  • Using the expertise of mental health professionals in the school (school psychologists, school social workers, and school counselors) in planning prevention and intervention, as well as in training others.

In May, we looked at the importance of each child being socially, emotionally, and mentally healthy. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Erica Ahmed, director of public education for Mental Health America; Jo Mason, acting national business manager and national professional product development manager for whole child partner Principals Australia Institute and MindMatters, Australia; and Philip C. Rodkin, associate professor of child development in the Departments of Educational Psychology and Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and read this blog to hear from guest bloggers and experts on understanding and promoting children's mental health today and the future.

Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read this month's newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

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