Leadership magazine Sept/Oct 2018 V48 No. 1 - Page 18

pressure to succeed, and fierce competition were impacting the students in high-per- forming school systems, causing extreme levels of stress and anxiety. Both district and site personnel expressed difficulty with meeting community expectations regard- ing academic excellence while also having a positive approach to student wellness. With the development of AB 2246, sui- cide prevention and interventions are the new mandate for all California school dis- tricts as of the 2017-18 school year. The data from this study regarding suicidal ideation were aligned with the current literature, and superintendents interviewed expressed their significant concern regarding the effect a student suicide can have on a school and dis- trict. Early identification, parent education and prevention programs were described as the key to limiting the influence of mental health concerns on student achievement. The data also suggested that given the in- creased demands on schools regarding stu- dent mental health, there have been changes to the role of the school counselor. Thus, 18 Leadership school districts interviewed were using their money creatively for new staff positions that may not have been present previously. Super- intendents indicated allocation of additional counseling resources and therapists to school sites as a critical part of addressing stress, anxiety and depression among students. Survey data and interviews showed that ad- ditional counseling personnel was a focus of funding for some of these districts. Mental health and wellness appear to now account for a major portion of the spending allocation for high-performing school districts. A critical key to the research conducted was understanding how high-performing school districts in California were address- ing student mental h ealth and wellness is- sues on their campuses. Our study found four main themes in high-performing school districts’ approach to addressing student wellness: professional development, staff- ing, programs and policy changes. Preven- tion and intervention were the foundation of these four areas of addressing student mental health and wellness. The intended outcome by school districts was to reduce stress and create opportunities for support, which in turn would decrease the anxiety and depression seen in their students and ultimately reduce the number of students expressing suicidal ideation. A robust professional development pro- gram for staff is one of the main ways school districts are increasing awareness and high- lighting warning signs for teachers and staff. With the demands on school sites due to the increased frequency of mental health issues, staffing was an integral outcome of the survey and interview data. Although not all school districts interviewed had been able to increase their counseling staff, it was the most common need expressed by both school site personnel and superintendents. It was clearly recognized that there is an in- creased need for on-site therapy and coun- seling to support student wellness, and this need can only be met through an increase in support providers to students. Another common theme amongst those surveyed was some type of program to ad-