Children and adolescents spend a large portion of their lives attending school, and in many communities, particularly where there is a shortage of community-based clinical providers, schools have become the largest provider of mental health services.

There are an array of interventions available for children and adolescents experiencing mental health concerns. These include:

  • Screenings;
  • Behavioral observations;
  • Consultation;
  • Assessment;
  • Counseling;
  • Crisis response services;

Not only do children and adolescents with mental health problems experience emotional, behavioral or social consequences related to their disorders, but they often experience lower educational achievement, have higher truancy levels and are more likely to be suspended or expelled than children with other disabilities, such as learning, developmental or physical disabilities.

Common Mental Health Problems

There are many mental health issues likely to be noted by school personnel and pediatricians, including:

  • Depression and suicide;
  • Bipolar disorders;
  • Anxiety;
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); 
  • Eating disorders;
  • Aggression and bullying;
  • Substance use;
  • Sexual orientation concerns; and
  • Childhood stress and trauma (physical and psychological abuse).


Mental Health Competencies for Pediatric Practice

This policy statement from the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health and the Mental Health Leadership Work Group looks at the impact of adverse childhood experiences and social determinants on mental health, trauma-informed practice and team-based care.


Helpful Resources

Supporting Mental Health in Schools
This report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the National Center for School Mental Health, indicates the findings from Supporting Mental Health in Schools Project, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Adolescent and School Health. The Supporting Mental Health in Schools Project began with a goal to gather formative, in-depth information from a small number of school districts with recognized high-functioning comprehensive school mental health system.

School Mental Health Action Guide 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created this action guide to help school and district leaders build on what they are already doing to promote students’ mental health and find new strategies to fill in gaps. The action guide describes six in-school strategies that are proven to promote and support mental health and well-being. For each strategy, the guide also describes approaches, or specific ways to put the strategy into action, and examples of evidence-based policies, programs, and practices.

Learning Module – Mental Health Stigma and Engaging Students of Color and Families 
This self-paced learning module and corresponding infographic provide school health professionals and school staff with information and resources to help support the health and wellbeing of students of color and families. These resources were developed by RMC Health for the American Academy of Pediatrics through funding made possible by cooperative agreement NU87PS004365 funded by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.

National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH)
The NCSMH, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is a technical assistance and training center with a focus on advancing research, training, policy and practice in school mental health.

NCSMH’s School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation (SHAPE) System
The SHAPE system is a public-access, web-based platform that offers schools, districts and states a workspace and targeted resources to support school mental health quality improvement.

School Mental Health Assessment, Research & Training (SMART) Center
The SMART Center promotes high-quality, culturally responsive programs, practices and policies to meet the full range of social, emotional and behavioral (SEB) needs of students in both general and special education contexts. The SMART Center represents a transdisciplinary collaboration between faculty in the College of Education and the School of Medicine at the University of Washington. Through this collaboration SMART facilitates more equitable, effective and integrated approaches to research and technical assistance surrounding the design and implementation of evidence-based SEB interventions.

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CCHHCS)
The CCHHCS, located at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University, is a policy, resource and technical assistance center with a history of developing school-connected strategies for better health and education outcomes for children.

School-Based Health Alliance: Mental Health
The School-Based Health Alliance is the national voice for school-based health care.

Bereavement Guidelines
Developed by the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement these guidelines are designed to help school staff, administrators and crisis team members respond to student needs after a loss impacting the school environment.

Improving Youth Behavioral Health Through School-Based Strategies
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, in partnership with CDC Healthy Schools Branch, convened a School Behavioral Health Advisory Committee
comprised of national, federal, academic, and state experts to identify policy gaps and strategies for delivering behavioral health services in schools.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry - Children & Schools Resource Center
The Resource Center includes Facts for Families, Youth FAQs, Treatment Resources, and Apps.

School-Based Mental Health: Pediatric Mental Health Minute Series
Kristie Ladegard, MD discusses school based mental health services and some of the positive outcomes that occur with this medical-home model. Resources for physicians and families can also be found here.


Hopeful Futures Campaign
More information on the national report card that scores every state on policies that support school mental health, and the action center to empower caregivers about our children and youth to learn more and drive change in their community.


Resources Available for Families on

Additional Resource for Families

Elevating the Role of School Nurses in School-Based Mental and Behavioral Health: A Consensus Document
A new resource for supporting youth mental and behavioral health in schools.

Advocating for Comprehensive School Mental Health Systems, A Tip Sheet for Families
This tip sheet, from the Family-Run Executive Director Leadership Association in collaboration with the National Center for School Mental Health, includes an array of information including definitions, benefits, talking and data points, advocacy tips and additional resources.

The California Healthy Minds, Thriving Kids Project
Explore a series of free videos for parents, educators and students titled Understanding Thoughts, all available in English and Spanish. These videos can help kids learn about connections between their thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how they can change thinking patterns to make them more helpful.

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American Academy of Pediatrics