ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Promoting Mental Health Through a Whole School Approach

Gloria Wells

Post submitted by Gloria Wells, president of whole child partner the International Alliance for Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Schools Society and executive director of Wellsprings Education and Human Service Consulting, located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Addressing mental health issues in schools is vitally important to the well-being of school community members. The International Alliance for Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Schools (INTERCAMHS) Society is a network of global agencies and individuals in the fields of education, health, mental health, and academia who collectively recognize the intrinsic interconnectedness of positive social, emotional, and mental well-being as a precursor to optimal academic outcomes. Via its not-for-profit society status, INTERCAMHS is providing a mechanism for anyone with similar beliefs to become a member as a means to further boost progress in this work.

The INTERCAMHS Society believes that promoting good mental health in schools supports a whole school approach involving effective mental health promotion, intervention, and treatment. This approach is supported by policies, skills for social-emotional learning, a healthy psychosocial school environment, and access to services in the school or the broader community. The full participation of teachers, students, families, and community agencies is encouraged with informed dialogue and collaboration among people and programs throughout all phases of the continuum. This action is supported by principles that value diversity and inclusiveness, and practice that creates conditions for empowerment and school organizational development. It emphasizes the critical role of evidence to guide training, policy, research, and practice across four areas:

  • Universal mental health promotion, which seeks to improve school psychosocial environments, skills-based health education for social- emotional learning, and brings resources and programs to all students to promote health, successful teaching, and learning and academic success;
  • Selective interventions, which provide prevention programs for young people presenting risk factors for problems;
  • Indicated interventions, which provide early interventions to young people exhibiting emotional and behavioral problems; and
  • Treatment, which provides more intensive services to youth presenting established emotional and behavioral problems.

Begun in 2001 and housed within other nonprofit organizations until 2011, the INTERCAMHS Society now operates as a registered not-for-profit society that brings together experience and expertise from all over the world to support efforts aimed at enhancing optimal learning outcomes for students by enhancing mental wellness. Members affirm that this is a foundational precursor to successful transition into productive lives within their communities and globally. Throughout the INTERCAMHS Society's history, context-specific collaboration with stakeholders locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, as well as the fostering of cross-sector capacity building, has underpinned this work.

The INTERCAMHS Society collaborates with individuals; school-based educators; education, health, and community organizations; governmental agencies; and academic institutions to foster knowledge mobilization and capacity building opportunities in practice, research, policy development, and training, primarily at a macro or systems level. Through this collaboration, the society aims to broaden understanding and acceptance of the critical link between school mental health and optimal learning outcomes among stakeholders as well as enhance efforts to implement context-specific, evidence-based school mental health practice in schools.

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