Mental and Behavioral Health

  • Promoting Student Engagement, Learning, Wellbeing and Safety — School Year 2021-2022 (Released Summer 2021) : (Power Point slides ) The Department is providing this document to support district efforts to promote the wellbeing of students, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This document replaces the January 2021 Promoting Student Engagement, Learning, Wellbeing and Safety document and includes guidance previously released by DESE, as well as new and updated resources to help districts develop, strengthen, and implement comprehensive systems for engaging with students and their families, connecting students and families with additional supports they may need, and promoting student safety. This document also includes racial equity and cultural responsiveness considerations to support districts in ensuring the wellbeing of all our students.

  • Creating Positive Learning Environments: Recommendations and Resources to Support the Social Emotional Well-being of Students, Staff, and Families (Summer 2020) : The Department is providing this resource to help districts and schools support the social emotional well-being of students, staff, and families. This document is intended to complement the reopening guidance. It includes a series of recommendations and sample resources to support planning and implementation, and builds upon related guidance offered this Spring (below).

  • Guidance on Behavioral and Mental Health Services During School Closures (Spring 2020): The Department has developed guidance for school counselors, psychologists, and other specialized instructional support personnel involved in providing school-based behavioral and mental health supports and services during the COVID-19 school closures (download). This document provides recommendations and resources.

  • Comprehensive School Mental Health System Opportunity: The Department, in partnership with the Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium (MASMHC), is engaged with selected districts in a learning collaborative facilitated by the National Center for School Mental Health during the 2021-2022 school year. The initiative includes professional development, technical assistance, and ongoing coaching to pilot practices to support the establishment of a comprehensive school mental health system. For more information, see the brief overview. Anyone with questions can contact DESE's Office of Student and Family Support at or 781-338-3010. You can also use this online interest form if you would like to receive information about additional related opportunities as they arise.

  • Ongoing Training Series — Thriving Minds: The Department, in partnership with the Rennie Center, Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT), and MASMHC, is pleased to offer a series of learning opportunities that offer educators guidance and support on building comprehensive school mental health systems that address the holistic needs of students.

  • MA Tools for Schools is a clearinghouse from the Department of resources to support sustainable school improvement in Massachusetts. The MA Tools for Schools COVID-19 Resources page contains links to local and national resources for implementing multi-tiered systems of supports during this time, including slides and links mentioned on Spring 2020 webinars such as "Supporting Students' Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mental Health Needs in the COVID-19 Era Webinar" held on March 31 and April 9, and the "Establishing District-Wide Systems to Support the Mental Health Needs of Students and Educators during COVID-19 Webinar" held on April 17 and 24, and the "Building Systems to Support the Whole Child Amid COVID-19 Webinar" on June 9.

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid: The Department is pleased to offer Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training sessions this year. Find the latest available dates, request a training for your district and/or register for a session. The YMHFA training helps teachers and other school staff to recognize, support, and refer to professional mental health services, if needed, students who may be experiencing mental health or substance use challenges and/or may be in crisis. This training is particularly important to offer at this time as we are all navigating the challenges related to COVID-19 and heightened national discourse related to our country's long history of institutional racism. Whether students are fully in person, hybrid, or fully remote, it is likely that teachers and other school staff are seeing increased numbers of students who report and demonstrate changes in mood as well as more intense feelings of anxiety and stress.

A DESE Newsletter periodically shares updates and offerings related to holistic supports & enrichment, including efforts to help strengthen social emotional competencies, health & safety. The April 15, May 15 and June 5, 2020 Newsletter editions were released during school closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The August, September, October, and December 2020, and the January, March, April, May, June, and August 2021 Newsletter editions are also now available. They include a sampling of Department offerings and other information designed to help bolster efforts to support student, staff, and family well-being and safety, alongside implementation of new modes of teaching and learning. You may sign-up online for this and other Department newsletters.

Last Updated: September 9, 2021

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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