CMHS Approach to Enhancing Youth Resilience and
Preventing Youth Violence in Schools and Communities
more information contact: Bernard S. Arons, M.D., Director, Center for
Mental Health Services,
The Parklawn Building, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 17-105, Rockville, Maryland
The Need for Resilience Enhancing and Violence Prevention
Patterns of Adolescent Violence
Perspectives on Violence
Risk and Protective Factors and Processes
Ethnic Minority and Cultural Issues
The Public Health Approach to Enhancing Resilience and Preventing
Violence in Schools and Communities
Preventing Violent BehaviorsMental
The Role of Schools
How to Intervene: What Programs Work?
What Are the Issues?
Exhibit 1Model and Promising
Exhibit 2Evidence-Based Programs
That Foster Resilience
Exhibit 3Exemplary, Model, and Promising
Programs to Strengthen Families
Promoting safe and healthy environments in which children
can learn and develop is a universal goal. Fortunately, most American
schools offer such an environment. At some schools, however, there are
problems of crime and violence, and in some cases these problems are severe.
School crime and violence put teachers and children in danger, which undermines
their ability to teach and learn.
Contrary to public perception, crime and violence in our schools have
been decreasing. The 2000 Annual Report on School Safety shows that since
1992 rates of serious crime, including violent crime, have steadily declined
in our schools, and the number of nonfatal crimes in schools is down by
more than 21 percent.
Recent trends are encouraging, but more work needs to be done. An environment
in which students feel safe is only the beginning. A safe school environment
is also one in which adults work together to provide a positive setting
in which all children and youth can function and learn. Providing a positive
environment, however, is not enough for the most vulnerable students.
For a variety of reasons, some children need additional, targeted support
at the individual level to help them develop the prosocial skills and
behavior necessary to function well in school. Resources devoted to a
safe school environment must be balanced by and integrated with resources
that address the needs of high-risk, individual students.
We now understand the processes that can lead to youth violence and what
strategies can be effective for prevention and intervention. Over the
last ten years, researchers from a variety of disciplines have identified
the individual, familial, and societal factors that increase the risk
of youth engaging in violence, suicide, and other problem behaviors, as
well as factors that contribute to promoting healthy youth development
and the prevention of violence. Using this knowledge, prevention scientists
have developed a variety of programs that increase protective processes
and decrease risk factors for youth violence.
Because incidents of youth violence are not limited to any particular
State or community, Federal efforts are critical. The Center for Mental
Health Services (CMHS), in collaboration with Federal, State, and local
partners, is taking a leadership role in supporting the implementation
of evidence-based violence prevention programs throughout the country.
This document will describe the CMHS approach to helping communities enhance
the resilience of their children and youth and prevent violence.
CMHS provides national leadership for policies, programs, and activities
designed to improve mental health treatment and prevention services for
adults with major mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances
and their families, as well as for adults and children at risk for mental
illness. Acknowledging the mission of the CMHS and the key role it plays
in fostering a public health approach to nationwide, health-related issues,
Congress, over the past three years, has appropriated to CMHS a total
of $210 million for school violence prevention activities. These funds
are to be used specifically to improve mental health services for children
with emotional and behavioral disorders who are at risk of violent behavior.
Mental health services that provide an integrated continuum of prevention,
early intervention, and treatment are an important tool for addressing
the issue of school violence.1
A central component of CMHS's youth violence prevention effort is the
Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. It promotes comprehensive, integrated,
community-wide strategies for school safety and development. This approach
is based on evidence that the more the whole community takes responsibility
for the healthy development of children, youth, and families, the better
the results are for youth. The initiative involves an unprecedented collaboration
among the Federal Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human
Youth violence is a complex and persistent problem that requires a sustained
commitment of attention, effort, and resources if it is to be ameliorated.
Our Nations schools and communities have shown us that with the
right partners and with comprehensive approaches, we can build strong
communities in neighborhoods that support healthy development of children
and youth and prevent youth violence.
Bernard S. Arons, M.D.
Center for Mental Health Services
U.S. House of Representatives, October 19, 1998