Afraid of Opening Pandora’s Box? How to Address Student Needs After Mental Health Screening in Schools

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Session Overview: 

Schools are increasingly interested and engaged in universal mental health screening for students to inform early detection and intervention to promote student well-being. However, given the increase in child and adolescent mental health needs increasing over recent decades, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, social media, racial violence and other recent events, schools are understandably concerned about how they will practically and ethically meet the mental health needs of students if they conduct universal screening. This learning session will provide practical information about evidence-informed screening practices to help protect school systems from identifying more student mental health need than they can reasonably address. This includes activities school can engage in prior to screening (e.g., resource mapping, surveillance screening) as well as during the screening process (e.g., gradual scale-up). We will also discuss strategies to address student mental health needs that go beyond referral to mental health treatment (i.e., “Tier 3”), with a focus on options available to low-resource settings that experience barriers to care such as mental health professional shortages. Field examples of mental health screening and how student needs were addressed will be provided to facilitate shared learning.

View the field example here


Learning Objectives:

  1. Increase understanding of how to prepare for and conduct mental health screening efforts in schools that protect against identifying more need than schools can address.
  2. Increase familiarity with strategies to address student mental health needs for those who screen in for potentially needing supports.  
  3. Promote cross-state networking and shared learning about how to address student mental health needs after screening in schools.




Elizabeth Connors, PhD is an Assistant Professor at Yale University, Division of Prevention and Community Research and at the Child Study Center. She is also a faculty member with the University of Maryland National Center for School Mental Health, where she is the Director of Quality Improvement and a developer of The SHAPE System. Dr. Connors received her Ph.D. in Clinical Child and Community Psychology and her work focuses on improving access to high-quality mental health promotion, prevention and intervention services and supports for underserved children, adolescents, young adults and their families in critical access points such as schools and community settings.

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