Leadership magazine Sept/Oct 2018 V48 No. 1 - Page 19

dress student mental health and wellness on campus. Although the types of programs varied, common themes included parent education programs, peer-to-peer support programs, and comprehensive wellness pro- grams. Yet, it was the creation of policy that seemed to solidify the student mental health and wellness programs within a school district. By creating broad policy change, superintendents have worked to adjust cal- endars, bell schedules, and homework poli- cies in an effort to reduce student stress and maintain a healthy approach to academic achievement. Ultimately, it is a combina- tion of measures including programming, education, and policy change being imple- mented by the school district that will truly combat mental health and wellness con- cerns in a lasting, meaningful way. Implications and Conclusion The results and findings of our research emphasizes the importance of the specific role that high-performing school districts play in addressing students’ mental health and wellness in high schools. Overwhelm- ingly, all school districts in our study noted elevated student mental health concerns and a sharp rise in pressure and stress in schools. In school districts with well established pro- grams, there is a deep rooted belief that stu- dent mental health and wellness must be an integral part of the district’s mission. They have made this an extensive focus with goals and objectives to address student wellness in their board goals, district road maps,and site planning. These districts have been ad- dressing this issue with the same dedication as new academic standards or a textbook adoption. Student wellness is treated as an integral part of learning programs on each school campus; it is not considered an add- on program or a week-long spirit ribbon week. Instead, it is a team effort from the su- perintendent and board to site administra- tion to school staff, not a charge being led by a single individual or a parent group hiring a guest speaker. Rather, it is a comprehensive approach with sustainable, financial backing that is a vital part of the district’s decision making and core values. Although there is no one way to solve this growing epidemic in high achieving com- munities, school districts must move ag- gressively to create policy change that is stu- dent centered and aimed at reducing stress. School districts must make student mental health and wellness a main priority and focus for the district, adopting a multifac- eted approach to professional development, parent education, and student awareness. Prevention, intervention, and postvention programming must also be included in the approach, as well as having staffing in place to increase the needed mental health support on school campuses. Educators want all students to come to school each day ready to engage in the learn- ing process. Yet, it is important to remember that students must be emotionally available in order to engage successfully in the class- room curriculum. If the culture of a school and community is unhealthy, learning will become secondary. Students in high-per- forming school districts are under extraor- dinary, unprecedented amounts of stress and pressure to succeed and this crisis is erupting throughout our state. Students are battling mental health issues of anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicidal ideation in re- cord numbers, and these issues are manifest- ing in classrooms and on school campuses. It is part of educators’ moral imperative to develop programs to address students’ men- tal health needs in these high-performing school districts. Programs must address students’ needs from all angles, including preventative education, intervention during crises, and postvention support to ensure smooth and continual access to curriculum. Educational leaders must start an honest dialogue in schools with all stakeholders to ratchet down the intense pressure that stu- dents feel to achieve. All stakeholders must stop focusing on college acceptance rates, GPAs, and excessive expectations in student achievement, athletics, and extracurricular activities. Without these changes, students will continually fail to meet unrealistic expectations leading to alarming mental health issues that will alter their lives. Edu- cational leaders can change the tenor of the conversation surrounding student wellness and mental health and explore how everyone can begin to make meaningful changes that puts students and their mental wellness first. References Austin, G.,