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Challenges to Collaboration in School Mental Health and Strategies for Overcoming Them

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  • Support for the Center for School Mental Health (Project # U45 MC00174) is provided by the Office of Adolescent Health, Maternal, and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Parts of this article were submitted to the National Mental Health Promotion and Violence Prevention Center of the Education Development Center and funded by the U.S.

  • Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Center for Mental Health Services for the workbook Realizing the Promise of the Whole-School Approach to Children's Mental Health: A Practical Guide for Schools, 2010.

Mark D. Weist, Professor, (weist@mailbox.sc.edu), Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, 1512 Pendleton Street, Columbia, SC 29208.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: This article reviews challenges to collaboration in school mental health (SMH) and presents practical strategies for overcoming them.

METHODS: The importance of collaboration to the success of SMH programs is reviewed, with a particular focus on collaboration between school- and community-employed professionals. Challenges to effective collaboration between school- and community-employed professionals in SMH are considered. Strategies for overcoming challenges to effective collaboration are presented.

RESULTS: Marginalization of the SMH agenda, limited interdisciplinary teamwork, restricted coordination mechanisms, confidentiality concerns, and resource and funding issues are key challenges to collaboration. Strategies targeted toward each of these challenges may help improve the effectiveness of SMH programs and ultimately student outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Collaboration between school- and community-employed professionals is critical to the success of SMH programs. Despite its promise, the success of SMH programs can be jeopardized by ineffective collaboration between school- and community-employed professionals. Strategies to overcome marginalization, promote authentic interdisciplinary teamwork, build effective coordination mechanisms, protect student and family confidentiality, and promote policy change and resource enhancements should be addressed in SMH improvement planning.

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