Young people face a variety of life challenges that can affect their mental health and/or use or abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Schools and campuses should be safe havens for them to grow and learn. Both settings offer a number of mental health promotion and substance use prevention activities, yet America’s schools and campuses are facing challenging public health issues such as bullying, violence, alcohol use, and drug abuse.
Many children and youth want to feel well liked and included in a group, which can sometimes make them susceptible to bullying and peer pressure. Both behaviors can start as early as preschool and become an even greater risk as young people transition into middle school, high school, college, and beyond. There are a number of actions school staff can take to make schools safer and prevent bullying. SAMHSA’s KnowBullying app offers tools for parents and educators.
Underage drinking and associated problems have profound negative consequences for underage drinkers, their families, their communities, and society. SAMHSA’s underage drinking prevention campaign helps parents and caregivers start talking to their children early about the dangers of alcohol. While schools provide a number of programs and activities to promote emotional health and prevent substance use among students, they face unprecedented behavioral health challenges.
Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS)
On March 12, 2018, President Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety (the Commission), chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to address school safety and the culture of school violence. The Commission will recommend policy and best practices for school violence prevention. The Commission is comprised of cabinet members whose agencies have jurisdiction over key school safety issues: Secretary DeVos, Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex M. Azar II, and Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Kirstjen Nielson. Within HHS, Elinore F. McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use works in collaboration with Secretary Azar on this Commission.
Ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of children is a top priority for HHS. Recent studies have shown that approximately one in ten children and youth in the United States experience a serious emotional disturbance, yet only 20 percent of those receive the help they need. Many of these children perform poorly in school and have difficulties at home and in the community. Furthermore, trauma, social isolation, and bullying are highly correlated with the development of serious emotional disturbance and rates of youth depression, anxiety, self-harm and most tragically, suicide are climbing.
Schools are on the front lines of addressing mental health conditions and are vital in identifying and supporting students with these conditions to improve student skill and functioning, promote healthy relationships, and reduce challenging behaviors and youth violence.
View the December 2018 report from the Federal Commission on School Safety detailing best practices and recommendations for improving safety at schools across the country.
For more information on the Federal Commission on School Safety, please visit the FCSS webpage.