Mental Health Colorado, the state’s leading mental health advocacy organization, offers two unique tools for the public to promote the prevention and early intervention of mental illness — one geared specifically to youth.
On its website, www.mentalhealthcolorado.org/resources/school, is a School Mental Health Toolkit, which serves as a blueprint for adequate mental health services in schools, the organization says.
The tool kit’s overarching goal is to build social and emotional learning curriculums in all schools, said Andrew Romanoff, CEO and president of Mental Health Colorado.
“We know that kids are eight times more likely to get the mental health care they need in a school building as opposed to somewhere else,” Romanoff said.
Many schools in Colorado lack full-time mental health providers and providers that specialize in substance use, according to the organization. Social and emotional learning trainings for school staff are also limited. In rural counties where transportation is a barrier, access to mental health services can be challenging.
The tool kit outlines the 10 best practices for mental health care in schools, including strategies for implementing, funding and sustaining services.
“It’s about how do you build more resilient kids,” Romanoff said.
Stephanie Crawford-Goetz, mental health director at the Douglas County School District, echoed that sentiment.
The district has several programs in place that promote healthy life skills, positive mental health and suicide prevention.
“Prevention starts out for all students in our schools,” Crawford-Goetz said. “We are teaching our students that emotions are healthy. It’s what we do with them that matters.”
Mental Health Colorado’s second tool is a mental health screening, available at www.mentalhealthcolorado.org/screenings.
Simple and quick surveys are offered in 11 categories: alcohol and substance use, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, mood disorders, parent screening, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, work health screening and youth.
Upon completion of a survey, a participant will receive results on whether he or she is experiencing symptoms of a mental health problem, as well as detailed information on the type of mental illness and resources for treatment.
Romanoff hopes the screenings become a regular practice for people of all ages.
“We want mental health screenings to be routine,” he said. “It ought to be just a routine part of physical health.”
— Alex DeWind