Closing the Gap on Mental Health in Schools

Experts believe there is a gap between evidence and technique when addressing mental health in the educational environment. Many programs addressing mental health in schools have been developed, including programs that deal with suicide, anger, anxiety, depression and aggression. However, a new article suggests that the generic model is not effective for every school setting. Researchers from the University of Missouri, including Melissa Maras, assistant professor of school psychology in the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology in the MU College of Education, and Joni Splett, a doctoral student, recently wrote about the topic.

They wrote that “Evidence based Practices” have absorbed a vast amount of training, money and time in order to reach a level of effectiveness and appropriateness with respect to mental health in the educational area. However, Maras believes that the developers neglected to allow for the uniqueness that a school environment presents, and thus decreased the impact that these programs have. She believes that families, children and schools are suffering as a result. “Every school is unique, with a distinct culture and different set of needs and resources,” says Maras. “Too often researchers are ready with the solution before they really know what the problem is. What schools really need is help sorting through everything they’re already doing to figure out what’s working and what’s not, and that can be difficult.”

The researchers are focusing their attention on an effort to create a modern model of mental health treatment in schools, called the “Community-Centered Model.” Their goal is to enhance the techniques that are already established, and to integrate new, more productive methods into the existing model. “We believe schools know what’s best for their students” says Splett in a related article. “Our job is to help them improve what they’re already doing and work with them to implement new programs and practices in a way that makes sense.”


Maras, Splett. Schools need collaboration, not packaged solutions, for best mental health programs. e! Science News. Web. May 4, 2011. Schools Need Collaboration, Not Packaged Solutions, for Best Mental Health Programs/04/ Science Daily. Web. May 4, 2011.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • shannon


    May 9th, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    Training classroom teachers who have never experienced children like this before is so important. It gives all of us an idea of what we should be on the lookout for in certain children and the models of behavior that we can strive to achieve for them. This is not something that is a one size fots all kind of fix, but we do have to start somewhere.

  • Harry


    May 9th, 2011 at 6:00 AM

    Using a fixed set of techniques and procedures makes no sense because mental health disorders always act differently in different people and mean different things in different environments.Also,different schools will have different levels of prejudice and bullying.So it is a good step forward, this.

  • Iris


    May 10th, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    And the bad thing about all of this is that studies can inadvertently point to one thing as a problem, but when you look again you realize that the problem could actually be something totally different. There needs to be more teacher input, more parental involvement, and more money in the system to get it fixed in a way that benefits all of our students and assures that all of them get the education and the services that are obviously so much needed. But there are so many schools and districts right now that are having a hard time keeping the kids supplied with pencils and paper, much less great learning environments and mental health care services, that I wonder where all of this is going to come from in both the short and the long term.

  • Colin


    May 14th, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    @Harry: The biggest point we all miss is right under our nose. Mental health is like physical health. You can patch up a cut on the arm with some bandages and stop the bleeding. Would you use a bandage on the arm if their leg was cut? No you wouldn’t. You can’t have a standard “one size fits all” approach.

  • Jonathan


    May 14th, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    School nurses are not covered by doctor/patient privilege to my knowledge. Teens CAN’T talk to them because they feel they cannot be trusted. School medical staff should be able to assure students that no matter what they say it does not leave that room if they want to make any inroads with them. And for that to happen, schools need doctors there not nurses and a heap more funding that they get now.

  • dina


    May 15th, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    @Johnathan: That will never happen. Let me help you rejoin us in the real world, Johnathan. It’s a lovely idea but unrealistic. Anyway, even doctors have to sometimes disclose information to the parents, do they not? Kids don’t always trust their parents enough to tell them and that job falls to the doctor.

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