Mental health in schools is a domain where the capture of progress monitoring data has traditionally lagged, with qualitative descriptions of student progress being more common than quantitative measures. Measuring the seemingly “immeasurable” has often seemed too daunting a task. As a result, the impact of school-based mental health initiatives is often “invisible” to most end users, including policymakers.
The Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework was originated by educators to ensure that all students receive the individualized help that they need to succeed academically and behaviorally. The MTSS concept of a continuum of tiered instruction and interventions has evolved over the years to be fully inclusive of all students. The currently popular Equity-Based MTSS model is seen as a framework that is beneficial for all students, including those identified as students with disabilities. The Equity-Based MTSS model translates extremely well to the delivery of school-based mental health services, as it assumes that all students need to cultivate an awareness of mental health issues, those who are functioning well academically, socially, and emotionally, as well as those with the most severe and disabling symptoms.
Teachers and other school staff are often in the best position to identify students who are struggling and help them get adequate care, support, and helpful interventions. Districts can benefit from clinically supported tools, e.g., universal mental health screenings, to help better identify students experiencing mental health challenges. The earlier we identify symptoms, the quicker we can intervene and provide treatment, which can reduce the incidence rate, duration, and severity of youth mental illness.