May 17, 2018

Quick quiz: Which state ranks 48th in youth mental health? Here’s a hint: You live there.

Each year, an estimated 200,000 students in Colorado experience a mental health or substance use disorder; most go without the care they need.

The result: increased truancy, dropouts, suspensions, expulsions—and one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

We can do better, not only by recognizing and treating mental illness but by taking steps to strengthen every student’s mental health. That’s why Mental Health Colorado is releasing a new school toolkit.

Our toolkit lays out 10 best practices, including strategies for screening students, training school staff to spot early warning signs, and embedding a mental health professional in each school building. A separate section identifies potential funding sources.

The key here is to make social and emotional learning a core component of every school’s culture and curriculum. Mental health initiatives have produced significant improvements in student performance and reductions in substance use and harmful behavior.

Of course, schools form only part of the solution. The most effective strategies engage parents, families and communities; our toolkit highlights successful programs that do just that.

How do we put such programs in place? We’re recruiting advocates across the state: parents, teachers, students and other leaders who want to champion mental health.

We’ll walk through the toolkit in a webinar on June 6. Email toolkit@mentalhealthcolorado.org to sign up or learn more.

-Andrew Romanoff