Programs and Practices
Arlington Schools has taken a multi-faceted approach to meeting the mental health needs of its students. Strategies are implemented at the student, staff and community levels to provide prevention and intervention in the area of mental health. With the understanding that strengthening of mental health practices effects prevention of many secondary needs (such as substance abuse or depression), a comprehensive approach is deemed most effective.
Mental health is a broad area that encompasses social, emotional, and psychological development in children. Through APS curricular areas and the elementary and secondary counseling programs, students are exposed to concepts relating to social skills, peer mediation, character education, citizenship, stress management, and recognition of psychological or emotional needs. Specific programs provide students with education about recognizing harassment and bullying, as well as signs of suicidal ideation.
In addition to its counseling staff, each school has an assigned school psychologist and school social worker that work with school staff to support students who require more individualized interventions. All high schools also have attendance counselors, substance abuse counselors, school nurses and school resource officers. School-based therapists from the Department of Mental Health support several schools.
All school staff are provided opportunities for training in recognizing signs of depression and suicidal ideation. Staff that are mandated to conduct risk assessments for suicide or violence (school psychologists, social workers, and counselors) have been trained in such procedures, with ongoing training in that area for new staff and to refresh current staff. Crisis management training is also an ongoing effort at all levels.
School mental health staff maintain up-to-date information about community resources and are prepared to facilitate referrals to agencies and service providers, as necessary. The Department of Student Services & Special Education also maintains communication with other Arlington agencies and ensures regular opportunities for staff from APS and the Department of Child and Family Services/Social Services to interact, to participate in joint training and to ensure good communication between agencies.
In some instances students’ mental health needs necessitate their absence from school for extended periods of time; for example, due to hospitalizations or the need for Homebound Instruction. The Department of Student Services & Special Education has developed the following document to assist families as they transition their children back to the school setting.
Parent & Community Involvement
The Department of Student Services & Special Education makes efforts to involve the Arlington community with input from advisory committees, as well as advocacy groups, including the Parent Resource Center. Furthermore, outreach efforts targeting private providers ensure that school staff are fully informed of available resources in the community. To that end, the Department of Student Services & Special Education hosts a “Mental Health Providers Fair” to increase awareness and communication between school staff and service providers, public and private.
APS seeks to support parents by offering a range of parent trainings at individual schools, as well as presentations on specific topics at the Parent Resource Center.
Every school has a team of professionals that are available to parents. Parents should contact the school principal or school counselor and may wish to consider referring their child to the Student Study Committee to discuss possible evaluations.