The organizations share the mutual goals of ensuring that Texas children have safe and healthy learning environments and access to the mental health services they need to be academically successful.
“The definition of school safety has expanded to encompass both physical safety and mental wellness,” says Kathy Martinez-Prather, Director of the Texas School Safety Center. “A key component of a holistic approach to school safety is the social and emotional well-being of our students.”
Every year, nearly 2 million Texas school children have mental health needs, most of which are mild or moderate depression or anxiety that are readily addressable by families and their health professionals.
“Supporting the emotional wellness of Texas students with the research-driven supports they need can have a profound effect on their overall wellbeing and academic performance,” said Andy Keller, PhD, president and CEO of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. “Texas is making great strides to better equip educators and parents with the tools and resources they need to get students help when they need it. It is also essential that families and communities emphasize the importance of talking openly about mental health.”
Half of mental illnesses emerge by age 14, with 75 percent beginning by the age of 24. Without treatment, students with mental health needs are at a greater risk of dropping out of school, engaging in substance use, and developing more severe mental health difficulties, putting them at higher risk of violence and suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, and the rate nationally and in Texas is at historic levels.
Legislation promoting school safety, inclusive of mental health promotion initiatives, passed during the recent legislative session with over-whelming bipartisan support. In August, Governor Greg Abbott released “Improving School Safety in Texas,” a report that highlights work by the 86th Legislature that “led to significant improvements in enhancing the safety of Texas schools, expanding students’ access to mental health resources, and increasing support for teachers facing classroom challenges.”
Throughout Safe Schools Week, The Texas School Safety Center, MMHPI, and Okay to Say will be sharing resources for educators, school-based law enforcement officers, and parents through their Facebook and Twitter pages.