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Back to School with Behavioral Health Supports

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Date: September 06, 2017
Category: Mental Health

Each new school year brings a mixture of emotions for students, whether they are heading off to pre-school through post-graduate studies. They may mourn the end of summer but look forward to seeing friends. They may be excited about new challenges but worry about academic pressure and peer pressure. As developing minds process these emotions, they often complicate emerging or ongoing behavioral health issues. Given that one-half of mental illnesses begin before age 14 and three quarters before age 25, it is critical, therefore, for students to have access to high-quality behavioral health services.


It’s important to gather data on new treatments and share what works. SAMHSA offers numerous resources for helping children, adolescents, and youth succeed in schools and universities. SAMHSA’s efforts in schools and on college campuses include:

  • Project AWARE grants to local and state educational agencies;
  • Safe Schools/Healthy Schools resources for reducing violence and promoting access to mental health services;
  • The Children’s Mental Health Initiative, funding systems of care for children, adolescents, and youth with serious emotional disturbance;
  • Mental Health First Aid training for school personnel and other adults;
  • The Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Program; and
  • Support to the University of Massachusetts Medical School Transitions Research and Training Center, which helps adolescents, youth, and young adults succeed in education, employment, and other facets of life.

Schools and universities continue to find innovative ways to meet the growing demand for behavioral health services in a time when resources are stretched thin. Some districts work with nonprofits to operate wellness centers in high schools, for example. At the university level, student groups, administrators, and private companies are getting creative. Radio station WBUR-Boston profiled some new approaches, including text-based therapy and peer support, campus peer support groups and an online platform for matching students with therapists who accept student insurance.

With the right resources, back-to-school time can be an exciting new beginning. Whether you’re a school employee, a community leader or a parent, it’s important to recognize when a young person needs help and to know where to turn when they do.

SAMHSA can help find treatment in the following ways:

SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator:

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357); 1-800-487-4889 (TDD)

SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)