Foundations for leading mentally healthy schools
The best place to start in creating a supportive environment for student mental health is to reflect on the top ten organizational conditions that set the stage for uptake and success of effective practices.
The top 10 organizational conditions have been identified through research and in consultation with Ontario school and system leaders. They are outlined briefly below, with a few questions for reflection that you might wish to consider. As a school or system leader, you are well-positioned to assess your setting in each of these areas, and to enhance as needed. Depending on your role, you will either answer the questions thinking about your board, or thinking about your school.
1. Visible commitment from leaders
Would it be obvious to others that board and school leaders are strongly committed to supporting student mental health at school? What are the visible indicators of commitment?
2. Active Mental Health Leadership Team
Is there a dedicated team at the board that works to assess strengths and gaps in student mental health in order to create a meaningful Mental Health and Addictions Strategy and Action Plan? Is there a similar team at each school? Do the teams reflect a diversity of roles and experiences?
3. Clear and focused vision
Do you have a clear vision for student mental health that is both aspirational and feasible to achieve? Would others in the organization know and support this vision? At the school do the staff, students and community know and support this vision?
4. Strong communication and shared language
Is there a communication plan that describes initiatives and progress in school mental health? Would others in the organization and wider community be able to describe how you are working to enhance mental health and prevent mental illness?
5. Routine assessment of need and capacity
Do you have a regular way of assessing student mental health needs and mapping organizational resources and strengths? Are action plans iteratively informed by these routine assessments?
6. Standard processes and protocols
Do you have effective and systematic ways for managing issues that arise related to student mental health (e.g., protocols for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention, decision-making about mental health awareness activities, partnerships with community agencies)? Are others in your organization aware of, and using, these processes and protocols?
7. Systematic professional learning and training
Are all staff prepared for their role in supporting student mental health? Beyond basic mental health awareness, do staff members have the confidence to act within the bounds of their role?
8. Ongoing mental health strategy and action plan
Do you have a school board 3-year Mental Health and Addictions Strategy? Do you have a school board action plan for the current school year that aligns with this, and is integrated with the overall board plan?
Does your school improvement plan demonstrate alignment with the Board’s Mental Health and Addictions strategy and your board’s improvement plan?
9. Meaningful engagement and collaboration
Do you gather and respond to student and parent/family voice and encourage engagement in school mental health initiatives? Do you have meaningful partnerships with school and community stakeholders?
10. Ongoing quality monitoring
Do you have a system for gathering data to inform school mental health practices and decisions? How do you communicate progress related to your Mental Health Strategy and Action Plan?
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