A few years ago I was invited to speak at a meeting in Toronto for some financial auditors who were working in school systems across Canada. Each of the provinces and territories were represented and when I asked what they would like to see presented they responded with Mental Health in the school.
They did not want to see policy, or documentation, instead they wanted to learn about a single school’s story and how we constructed a community to support our students. Since I could not bring them to the school I video taped and photographed aspects that contributed to our success as a caring, thoughtful, community focused and safe home for students.
We started our conversation by discussing the stigma that hangs over any conversation of mental health, and how when we use the phrase physical health we paint an entirely different picture in our minds.
I shared some statistics that spoke of one in every five students struggling with mental health, but wanted to focus my discussion with them about five students of every five. What are we doing for all students?
I had them picture a pyramid divided into three sections to illustrate the percentage of students at each of three levels. Section one at the base of the pyramid is the majority of the students, referred to as tier 1 with no mental health issues but having occasional upset. The second tier of students, a lower percentage, had some mental health distress and the top of the pyramid, our students with mental health disorders requiring medical intervention. With this in mind, I then wanted them to focus with me on the base of the pyramid.
To assist me with this presentation I used a marvellous resource; School Mental Health Assist and have included the link to a the pdf INFO SHEET. It is their Overview of Mental Health and Well-Being at School. I gave the participants of my presentation a ‘walk through’ of my school by utilizing the descriptors within the model.
The Aligned and Integration Model (AIM) for School Mental Health and Well Being is what I used to tell our school story and you should use it as well.
From the INFO PAGE: ‘The Aligned and Integrated Model (AIM) for School Mental Health and Well-Being brings together fundamental elements of Foundations for a Healthy School, within the framework of a multi-tiered system of support. Educators can welcome, include, understand, promote, and partner to enhance the well-being of ALL students. We can prevent risk, offer support, and bolster protective factors to build the well-being of students who are experiencing difficulty with their mental health. School and community mental health professionals can collaborate to intervene with the FEW students exhibiting significant mental health disorders’
Notice that between all the tiers the model uses the phrasing.
Foundation-School and classroom leadership
Bridge-Mobilize board and community services.
Foundation is a key word, and it is truly here, where we as educators have the greatest amount of impact. As a school leader I can work with our staff to focus our attention on the key aspects of tier one, moving to our need for ‘early identification’. My talk was about mobilizing staff to focus their attention on these tier one key words. Readers of this blog will recognize the importance of these words in the previous content.
Using all of these key words within the AIM I then shared examples of what we were doing at a school level to ‘welcome’, ‘include’, ‘understand’ etc
If you are given an opportunity to share what you are doing at your school in order to support all the students during tough times, and particularly now as we return to a new normal, I highly recommend you use this resource.
Not only are you able to align the initiatives you are currently doing, you would be able to see if a gap exists and what areas you should place more of your time and attention. On page two of the INFO SHEET there is a wonderful check list for some ideas on how you can achieve representation across all the key words at Tier 1.
Want to tell a great story about your school and don’t know where to begin? Connect your good work with the Aligned and Integration Model (AIM) for School Mental Health and Well-Being.
Of course it is not about presenting yourself and your school in the best way possible, it is about supporting students.
The resources available from School Mental Health ASSIST which, ‘works alongside the Ontario Ministry of Education to support student mental health and well-Being in Ontario schools’ are must reads. If you are not familiar with the resources please do yourself a favour and check them out. If it has been awhile since you have reviewed them, re-introduce yourself to the marvellous materials that are available.
Our students will not achieve, have a sense of well-being and positive mental health without the adults in their lives making this work a priority. Have a look.