Mental Health Awareness

 

Mental Health Awareness Week

MCPS and the Montgomery County School Psychologists’ Association (MCSPA) hosted a free virtual event to give youth and families the opportunity to hear from mental health experts on issues that are important to them. This weeklong expo featured daily themes, dynamic speakers and breakout sessions, and ended with a resource fair and Q&A session. More information

 
curriculum first

School Mental Health Programs
"What school programs support my child's mental health?"

MCPS recognizes the impact that a student's mental health has on learning and achievement. All schools and classrooms provide curriculum, programs, and strategies that foster the academic success and physical, social, and psychological well-being of all students, grades PreK-12. Our goal is to give students access to experiences that build social skills, leadership, self-awareness, and caring connections to adults in their school and community.

Physical Well-Being

Programs and activities that create safe and nurturing school environments that provide students with opportunities to participate in physical activities and develop lifelong positive health-related attitudes and behaviors.

Social Well-Being

Programs and activities that build positive relationships between students and school staff and engage students to attend school regularly and participate in extra-curricular activities.

Psychological Well-Being

Programs and activities that help students become aware of and learn to understated and manage their emotions. This includes teaching students to advocate for themselves and others and to recognize signs and symptoms that indicate when they need help and how to access assistance.

Below are examples of the programs and activities schools engage in to maximize student development, help them become ready to learn, and interact effectively with peers, staff members and the community.

Be Well 365 is a district-wide action plan to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities in six essential areas of physical, social, and psychological development that support academic growth and lifelong personal and career success.

The 6 Essentials:

  • Culturally Responsive Relationship Building: The ability to establish healthy relationships and understand social and interpersonal skills by creating positive climates. For example, demonstrating an understanding of the identities and experiences of all students ensuring they receive equitable opportunities for learning. Learn more in this Be Well Talk video.
  • Mental and Emotional Health: The ability to use healthy mental and emotional skills to strengthen self-concept and cope with adversity. For example, learning and applying the skills to manage stress. Learn more in this Be Well Talk video.
  • Trauma Informed Practices: The ability to understand the effects of trauma on physical and psychological development and to use strategies to reduce their impact on student learning. For example, helping students build skills such as optimism, flexibility, self-confidence, self-control, and perseverance in a safe and welcoming learning environment. Learn more in this Be Well Talk video.
  • Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices: The use of strategies to build understanding relationships between students and adults and resolve conflicts in a manner that restores relationships and repairs the harm that may have been caused. For example, presenting opportunities for students to develop core social competencies, such as empathy, compassion and conflict resolution skills through carefully constructed group conversations. Learn more in this Be Well Talk video.
  • Physical Health and Wellness: The development of lifelong positive health-related attitudes and behaviors that includes physical fitness, relationship-building, and decision-making. For example, providing a diverse selection of engaging in-school and after-school activities while also focusing on nutrition as key element of wellness.
  • Character Education and Empathy: The ability understand and care about the feelings of others, accept responsibility, and behave in a safe, positive, and ethical manner. For example, nurturing student capacity for compassion, self-regulation and resilience, especially in adverse situations. Learn more in this Be Well Talk video.

The 6 essentials are incorporated in the academic curriculum and in regular school day activities, in addition to specific lessons provided by school counselors, school psychologists, health education and other content area teachers and programs.

Visit the Be Well 365 webpage for more information.

 

The Signs of Suicide® (SOS) Prevention Program SOS is a nationally recognized program that teaches secondary students the warning signs of emotional distress and/or suicide in themselves, friends, or loved ones. The program has demonstrated an improvement in students’ knowledge and attitudes toward suicide risk and depression, as well as a reduction in actual suicide attempts.

The SOS Program is designed to:

  • Decrease suicide and suicide attempts by increasing student knowledge and attitudes about depression.
  • Encourage open, honest conversations where students may speak about and share their feelings.
  • Encourage students to reach out to an adult for help when they are in distress or on behalf of a friend.
  • Reduce the stigma of mental illness and acknowledge the importance of seeking help or treatment.
  • Engage parents and school staff as partners in prevention.
  • Encourage schools to develop community-based partnerships to support student mental health.

We are committed to ensuring that all students are able to learn and grow in school communities where they are safe and supported. To assist families in having these difficult conversations with their students, please refer to these local and national resources: Suicide Prevention Resources

 

Creating a safe school environment that is free of bullying, harassment and intimidation includes adults working together to identify and respond to bullying and teaching students important social emotional life-skills. All schools and classrooms implement proactive and preventive strategies to make schools safe and positive places to learn.

Several comprehensive programs support bullying prevention and provide students with safe and age appropriate opportunities to resolve conflicts, develop strong decision-making skills and enhance empathy. Some of these programs include Character Education, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), and classroom guidance lessons. More resources are available online to help families, or you can contact the school counselor or principal in your child’s school. You can also call the Office of Student and Family Support and Engagement at 240-740-5630.

 

Restorative Justice concepts and practices focus on mediation and agreement rather than punishment, thus keeping students in school where they can learn. It is set of proactive tools that foster community and help build relationships in schools. It is designed to resolve disciplinary problems in a cooperative and constructive way and is based on respect, responsibility, relationship-building, and relationship-repairing. Restorative practices uses a three-tiered approach:

  • Tier I focuses on building a strong community within the school. School staff lead students in "circles" or conversations where students can voice concerns and feelings around a particular topic or incident that affects the community. This helps build trust, empathy and develops positive relationships.
  • Tier II responds to disciplinary issues and guides students to repair harm and restore relationships. Through facilitator-led discussions, students are held accountable for their actions and all those involved gain a better understanding about what happened, why it happened, and how the damage can be fixed.
  • Tier III supports students re-entering the school community due to suspension, expulsion, incarceration, or truancy. The goal is to welcome students back to school in a way that provides multiple support while promoting student accountability and achievement.

You can hear more about Restorative Practices in this Be Well Talk video and on the Restorative Justice webpage.

 

Stress and pressure can negatively impact learning, memory, behavior, and both physical and mental health. Mindfulness programs can support students in calming themselves, focusing their attention, and interacting effectively with others, all critical skills for functioning well in school and in life. Mindfulness practice is a purposeful and non-judgmental awareness of the present moment that allows for acceptance of feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Many schools have been implementing a variety of mindfulness related strategies to help all students process and accept their emotions.

  • Focused attention on deep breathing to create a sense of calmness and relieve stress
  • A mental scan of every part of the body, gradually from head to toe to release tension
  • Wellness/mindful rooms where students can meditate, practice breathing and affirmation exercises
  • Guided imagery meditation
  • School-wide mindful moments during morning announcements, lunch, and/or classrooms
  • Yoga

Learn more on how mindfulness contributes to the emotional well-being of students in this Be Well Talk video and explore more with these mindfulness resources.

 

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a proactive approach to improving a school’s ability to teach and support positive behavior for all students. It is based on the premise that students learn appropriate behaviors through instruction, practice, feedback, and encouragement. PBIS helps to create a culture where students know exactly what is expected of them and the consequences that result when they choose not to meet the expectations. When a school environment is positive and predictable, students feel safer, do better academically, and make better behavior choices.

PBIS provides flexible guidelines for schools to design, implement and evaluate school-wide behavior expectations that are appropriate for their school. The major components of PBIS are:

  • An agreed upon set of expectations for all students and staff, such as respect, responsibility, and safety
  • Specific procedures for teaching the expectations, such as teaching students how to be safe by keeping their hands away from others
  • Defined strategies for encouraging the expectations, such as positive adult behaviors, positive encouragement, visual reminders throughout the school, and school announcements
  • Specific methods for discouraging rule-violating behavior, such as using incentives to recognize and acknowledge positive behavior (praise, special activities/events, etc.)
  • Monitoring data and evaluating the effectiveness of the program on a regular basis

Contact your child's school to learn if they participate in the PBIS program. Additionally, using PBIS ideas at home can help students maintain expectations not only at home, but during the school day and in the community as well.

MCPS takes an active role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect through early prevention and intervention education. Personal Body Safety Lessons (PBSL) provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to keep themselves safe, and guidance on when and how to report incidents of suspected child abuse and neglect. PBSLs are taught in all grade levels.

An overview of PBSL and resources are available to families to help discuss the topic at home:  Elementary | Secondary

In addition, both the elementary and secondary health curriculum include age-appropriate lessons on safety and injury prevention, family life and human sexuality, cyberbullying and social media, healthy relationships, harassment and intimidation. MCPS also partners with the Montgomery County Family Justice Foundation and youth service providers in sponsoring the annual “Choose Respect Montgomery” event for students to learn about healthy teen relationships, teen dating violence prevention, and resources on where to get help.

Tips for Parents When Talking With Your Children

More resources are available online, or you can contact the principal, the school counselor, or the Health Education teacher at your child's school.

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Mental Health Resources
"Where can I learn more about children's mental health?"

Always seek immediate help if a child engages in unsafe behavior or talks about wanting to hurt themselves or someone else.  Refer to this list of local and national resources:  Where To Get Help

It can be hard for families to tell the difference between challenging behaviors and emotions that are consistent with typical child development and those that are cause for concern. In general, if a child’s behavior persists for a few weeks or longer, causes distress for the child or the child’s family, and interferes with functioning at school, at home, or with friends, then consider seeking help.

Listed below are informational resources on a variety of mental health topics to help families and educators support student success.