Our nation’s K-12 students are struggling with the toll that the last two-plus years have taken on their mental health. With students of all ages experiencing a deluge of mental health challenges, and struggling to get the support they need, our nation’s youth are in the midst of a mental health crisis. Today, 44% of high schoolers feel sad or hopeless, and suicide is the leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 14.
Students are looking for mental health support, and many are turning to where they already spend much of their time–school. When surveyed, 70% of public schools reported an increase in students seeking mental health services, and 76% reported an increase in school staff voicing concerns about their students exhibiting depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms.
Schools are the heart of a community, a place students and their families trust and rely on for services and support. Schools want to support their student’s mental health, but many lack the resources to meet the growing demand for services. Almost all public schools (96%) today offer some mental health support, but only 12% strongly agree that they can effectively provide mental health services to all students in need. In most districts, student need overwhelms current strategies and resources.
School-based mental health services can improve access to care, enable early intervention and prevention, reduce stigma, increase utilization, reduce chronic absenteeism, and improve student health outcomes. Especially for underserved communities, school-based mental health services can help reduce barriers to care and ensure that all students who need services are able to access them.
The need is clear, but how can school districts respond? How can districts expand and augment existing mental health strategies? What solutions and interventions can districts build into their Multi-Tiered System of Support framework to address the needs of students effectively?
Using a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Framework
Typically, schools use a three-tiered framework to deliver instructional or behavioral interventions to students (some use four). A multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) enables the delivery of interventions unique to the student's needs–it avoids a one-size-fits-all approach to behavioral and social-emotional interventions.
The MTSS framework looks at more than how a student performs in the classroom–it aims to consider all parts of a student's life including their emotional and behavioral health, and how they're affected by social determinants and other nonacademic factors.
Understanding that the school setting is a fitting place for mental health interventions, schools are implementing robust MTSS frameworks that incorporate school-based mental health services.
Every school and district will have different strategies, depending on resources and the specific needs of their student and family population.
Not only are the tiers of MTSS viewed through the lens of the interventions, but they are also determined by student need. To determine student needs, districts consider a myriad of data sources, including attendance, behavioral referrals and information, academic outcomes, and much more. There are traditionally three tiers of student needs:
- Tier 1: students that do not require any specialized intervention
- Tier 2: students that require some level of intervention beyond the services universally offered
- Tier 3: students that need more intensive interventions
It is important to note that interventions can be used across student tiers. For example, a tier 2 intervention, like mental health counseling, might be able to meet the needs of both tier 2 and tier 3 students.
Hazel Health mental health services as a tier 2 MTSS intervention
As the mental health needs among our nation's youth continue to grow, schools are working to provide more robust, innovative solutions to respond to the growing demand for mental health support. Districts across the country, spanning diverse demographics and various degrees of local partnerships, have implemented Hazel Health into their MTSS frameworks as a tier 2 intervention.