A positive relationship between pediatricians and the school community is critical in addressing mental health problems. Pediatric practitioners are an important link in the continuation of care for students with emerging, acute or chronic mental health problems. Pediatricians can play a key role in advancing support for the emotional and behavioral well being of young people. These roles may include:

  • Collaboration
    Sharing information between pediatricians and school personnel is of key importance. Pediatricians can elect to participate directly on the student support team by being physically present or by teleconference when their patients are being evaluated by school personnel.

  • Community Health Resource
    Pediatricians can be critical resources to school staff that are trying to identify primary care providers for their students. The AAP supports this approach of practitioners serving as a medical home for children and teenagers in the community. In addition, pediatricians can provide valuable assistance in facilitating patient referrals to mental health providers or other specialists in the community.

  • Education and Consultation
    Pediatricians can:
    • Conduct in-services and workshops to school personnel and to parents on developmental and mental health topics;
    • Volunteer to work at community school-based health centers or supervise pediatric nurse practitioners that work in schools;
    • Serve as a medical consultant.;
    • Serve on the school health advisory council.
  • Advocacy
    Pediatricians have the ability to serve as a bridge between the parent/caregiver and the school and advocate for students who may require evaluation and mental health interventions at school. Some examples of this include:
    • Obtain a Section 504 accommodation plan and counsel parents about behavioral management strategies that can be effective;
    • Serve as advocates for policy on a local, state or national level to help ensure that the mental health needs of children and teenagers are met;
    • Work towards the reduction of financial barriers to mental health care by petitioning for reimbursement by insurance providers for mental health care delivered in a primary care or school setting.

Pediatricians often have a trusting relationship with patients and families and offer family-centered care while demonstrating an understanding of the social, emotional, and educational problems in the context of child development. Therefore, the pediatrician, has a unique opportunity to prevent and treat mental health problems through proactive guidance, early identification and primary care mental health interventions.

Related AAP Policy Statement

Mental Health Competencies for Pediatric Practice
This policy statement from the Committee on Psyhosocial 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.

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American Academy of Pediatrics