Leadership magazine Sept/Oct 2018 V48 No. 1 - Page 16

Student mental health and wellness: BEST PRACTICES FOR EDUCATIONAL LEADERS Mental health concerns of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are present among students in low performing schools, but the risk factors are significantly different within high- performing schools. 16 Leadership What is the role of K-12 educational leaders in addressing the mental health crisis that is currently sweeping our nation? One of the most alarming statistics found in cur- rent literature notes that adolescent suicide rates have tripled over the past 60 years, making suicide the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24 (Kruisselbrink, 2013). In a typical high school in the United States, it is estimated that three students attempt suicide each year (The Trevor Project, 2016). With roughly 1,500 high schools in California, protecting the health and well-being of young people is an ethical imperative for all professionals working with students. It is important that educators consider the role of public services in addressing mental health, including edu- cation, prevention and intervention. The National Institute on Mental Health (2005) has described mental disorders as chronic diseases of the young, yet there is a long delay between the onset of the disor- der and treatment, with a median delay of a decade. Thus, it is critical to implement pro- grams in schools that help students develop self-efficacy, coping strategies, and mental health and wellness literacy. K-12 school enrollment is the one constant in the life of youth, making it the logical place to imple- ment a preventative, education-based pro- gram to address student mental health and wellness. This type of program would help students to understand when to ask for help for themselves or others. Although we recognize that all students can suffer from mental health concerns, an often overlooked group of students in the research are those from high-performing school districts, where mental health issues are often rooted in academic achievement, demands for excellence and pressure to per- form. Students within high-performing school districts often experience a signifi- cant amount of success, yet along with this comes tremendous pressure and stress for students to excel and thrive in all areas of ac- ademics, athletics and extracurricular activ- ities. We conducted research in California By: Dr. Jeremy Meadows and Dr. Trista Ramirez