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Mental and Behavioral Health

  • Promoting Student Engagement, Learning, Wellbeing and Safety During Remote and Hybrid Learning (Winter 2020) Download Word Document: The Department is providing this document for districts to use to continue to engage with students and their families, and to connect students and families with additional supports they may need during remote and hybrid learning. The document compiles excerpts of previously released as well as new Department guidance, resources, and recommendations.

  • Creating Positive Learning Environments: Recommendations and Resources to Support the Social Emotional Well-being of Students, Staff, and Families (Summer 2020) Download Word Document: 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 Word Document (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 pleased to offer an opportunity for district teams to engage in a learning collaborative facilitated by the National Center for School Mental Health during the 2021-2022 school year. District teams (selected by early July 2021) will be given access to professional development, technical assistance, and ongoing coaching as they work 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.

  • 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.

  • Additional learning opportunities related to school mental health are also available Download Word Document. To sign up to learn about updates and other opportunities as they arise this year and beyond, related to strengthening comprehensive school mental health systems (e.g., professional learning or resources available), use this online interest form.

  • 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 recent 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.

  • Relationship Mapping Practice Profiles: During the pandemic, schools and districts are finding new ways to build and maintain relationships between teachers, staff, and students. Adult to Student Relationship Mapping is the systematic identification of student-adult trusted relationships in the school community. This approach allows educators to identify students who may be at risk of not having such a trusted connection and match them with appropriate supports for navigating academic and personal challenges throughout the school year. A Practice Profile Download PDF Document is available and was shared in a recent Building Blocks workshop. For more recommendations and sample resources on supporting the social emotional well-being of students, as well as teachers and staff this year, please review the DESE guidance documents on the top of this page.

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 have been released during school closures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The August, September, October, and December 2020, and the January, March, April, May, and June 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: June 18, 2021

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