Mental Health in Schools

Mental Health in Schools Learning Series

Welcome to the Mental Health in Schools Virtual Learning Series from Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Student Services.

All of the virtual learning opportunities found within this series were selected to support school leaders and school-based mental health practitioners as they prepare to respond to the mental health needs of their students. There is a keynote address and presentations are organized into four strands: Equity, Recovery, Virtual Supports, and Trauma. Each virtual learning opportunity is accompanied by an overview document that includes resources for continued learning or application, as well as a discussion guide to foster collaboration between colleagues or for self-reflection and planning.

Keynote Address

Author: Sophia Farmer

Stitching a New Garment: Designing the Schools Our Students Need for a New World

In a rapidly evolving climate, there are certain constants that are familiar to all educators. The key to successful schools is staying true to these core tenets while prioritizing and adapting to changing needs. The primary tenets will be outlined and described with implications for online or hybrid working and learning environments.


Author: Byron McClure

Using Risk Ratios as a Tool to Create More Equitable Practices

Research has demonstrated that one of the least effective responses to school violence is punishment and the most effective responses to school violence is social skills training, academic restructuring, and behavioral interventions. Research has also revealed that exclusion and punishment are ineffective at producing long-term reductions in problem behavior (Horner et al., 2005). However, exclusion and punishment are the most common responses to conduct disorders in schools. Ineffective discipline practices are frequently used in school districts across the nation. These ineffective practices typically harm Black students disproportionately. The good news is that these inequitable practices can be changed. In particular, school teams can calculate and analyze disproportionality by monitoring risk indices and risk ratios.

Author: Dr. Blaire Cholewa

Discipline Disparities: A Multidimensional Problem Requiring a Multidimensional Response

Disparities in disciplinary practices abound and have become increasingly problematic given the negative outcomes associated with exclusionary discipline. This webinar summarizes the common factors contributing to the discipline gap and the corresponding approaches to mitigating the problem. In particular, this webinar introduces both common and less common research-based approaches to addressing disparities and emphasizes the importance of a culturally responsive, multidimensional response.

Author: Dr. Shekila Melchior

Implicit Bias

This learning session provided attendees with the definition of culture, stereotype/stereotype threat, privilege/oppression and socialization. Providing these definitions creates a foundation by which to examine implicit bias and the ways in which implicit bias impacts students. Tips on how educators can self-reflect, engage their colleagues, and continue to fight against biases in the school are provided.

Author: Dr. Joshua Cole

Equity Considerations for Students with Disabilities

This session will help educators develop an equity mindset for working with students with disabilities by shifting the historical educational paradigm focused on equality toward one focused on equity. This process is based on the legal standard that requires schools to demonstrate meaningful progress and appropriately ambitious goals for students with disabilities and rooted in the development of a culture of equity in schools. This session will help educators begin their personal journey toward an equity mindset and empower them to support their colleagues, families and, most importantly, students through a personal critical self-reflection process. Essential action steps beginning with authentic professional relationship-building, thoughtful decision-making, and use of implementation strategies focused on students’ abilities will be outlined for educators. These action steps will help educators use equity mindset to support students with disabilities to reach and exceed their goals.

Author: Sophia Farmer

Initiative Mapping: Increasing Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity in Divisions and Schools

Increasingly, schools are trying to do more with fewer resources. Initiative or resource mapping allows divisions, schools, and other organizations to take inventory of current practices and programs; evaluate them for effectiveness and efficiency; ensure equitable distribution of resources; and communicate and collaborate with other organizations for shared implementation capacity. Initiative mapping is an important implementation activity when divisions are seeking to select, de-select, or enhance the work they are doing for successful student outcomes.


Author: Sophia Farmer

Data Informed Decision Making

The phrase data rich and information poor (DRIP) was first used in the 1983 best-selling business book, In Search of Excellence, to describe organizations that were rich in data, but lacked the processes to use the data to drive improvement. Divisions and schools continue to struggle with the implementation of data analysis and informed decision-making processes with fidelity. This presentation will describe the core features of an effective system for data-informed decision-making that results in improved outcomes for students.

Author: Dr. Tori Stone

Helping Children Cope with Grief

This learning session will provide information on the grieving process in children and teens. Books, resources, and activities to support children and families will be provided.

Author: Dr. Patricia "Tish" Jennings

Part I. Preventing "Compassion Fatigue" Wellness for Mental Health Providers

Resilience is the capacity to successfully adapt to challenging situations without long-term negative effects. Today, our students, teachers, and mental health providers need resilience more than ever to prevent compassion fatigue. Empathy-based distress can impair our functioning and our physical and mental health. Building resilience involves cultivating and harnessing resources to sustain well-being and to recover quickly when facing difficulty. In today’s unpredictable world, learning to adapt quickly has become a critical skill. Research shows that mindful awareness and compassion practices promote the cognitive and emotional strengths we need to build and maintain resilience.

Author: Dr. Patricia "Tish" Jennings

Part 2. Preventing "Compassion Fatigue" Wellness for Mental Health Providers

Dr. Jennings will present simple, easy to use mindfulness, compassion, and emotion skills proven to enhance resilience and promote well-being.

Author: Dr. Joshua Cole

Building and Sustaining School and Community Partnerships

This session will help educators create sustained community partnerships to meet school-based needs and focus on student success. School-community partnerships can meet the needs of educators, families, and students and support sustained success within a school community. An internal audit of school resources can prioritize needs within the school learning environment and create a value-added relationship-building approach with community partners. Sustaining quality community partnerships relies on an organizational system that will manage the multitude of opportunities through leadership, empowerment, and investment for all key stakeholder.

Author: Dr. Jonathan Dalton

When School Refusal Intersects with COVID-19: Practical Strategies and Interventions

We will review evidence-based techniques and strategies to help students who are at risk for school refusal during a school year of unprecedented and complex challenges.

Author: Dr. Jonathan Dalton

Return to Learn in the COVID-19 Era: How to Help Students cope Effectively with Anxiety

We will review evidence-based techniques to help students develop resilience in the face of adversity and uncertainty and to use non-avoidant coping skills in response to high levels of anticipated anxiety about the pandemic and academic demands.

Author: Erin Hurley

Mindfulness: Using Present Moment Awareness to Promote Wellness

This session will give a general overview of mindfulness-based practices and how they can be incorporated within the MTSS framework.

Virtual Supports

Author: Dr. Julia Taylor

Assessing and Addressing Student Need

Introduction to root cause analysis, developing meaningful needs assessments, and choosing an evidence-based intervention.

Author: Dr. Julia Taylor

Large Group Virtual Counseling

This session will discuss potential solutions to the barriers that surround virtual counseling in a large group setting. Ideas, resources, and essential considerations will speak to school-wide initiatives, classroom lessons, and events in the virtual setting.

Author: Dr. Sam Steen

A Primer on Virtual Small Groups

Group counseling interventions are effective, efficient, and appropriate for students who need additional social, emotional and behavioral support. There are a number of considerations that are applicable within virtual environments and evidence is still emerging. It is important for helpers to continue to learn basic group counseling considerations that can be made within virtual environments, reflect on a number of challenges and barriers to overcome, and identify areas for additional growth and development.

Author: Dr. Dan Florell

Implementing Telehealth Services in Schools

Due to the pandemic, schools have rapidly transitioned to online teaching and service delivery. This transition has caused school support personnel to scramble to provide remote services to students. Often there has not been time to carefully consider the implications of quickly made decisions. As remote service delivery continues, practitioners need to take a step back and consider how various federal laws apply to digital service provision such as through telehealth. This session will review the major federal laws that apply to digital services and highlight common ethical concerns that can arise.

Author: Dan Florell

Legal and Ethical Overview of Telehealth in Schools

In the rapid transition to providing remote online school services, the focus was on getting services to students. The initial transition has passed and it is time to reflect on the best way to provide school services. This requires reviewing basic of videoconferencing and confirming that student privacy and confidentiality is ensured. Professionals will need to be competent in creating adequate passwords to accounts and that data is fully encrypted. In addition, informed consent needs to be scrutinized to make sure it covers unique aspects of digital service delivery to students.

Author: Benjamin Fernandez

Suicide Prevention Considerations in the Virtual Environment

Students experience a roller coaster of emotions as they progress through school. While most cope successfully with these challenges, many have emotional pain so great that they will have thoughts of suicide. By the age of 14, approximately 50% of lifetime mental concerns begin and 90% of deaths by suicide have an underlying mental illness. As many students are preparing to return to school, mental health professionals will face the challenge of service delivery in both in-person and distance learning environments. This session will focus on the considerations for suicide prevention in a virtual, distance learning environment.

Author: Benjamin Fernandez

Suicide Intervention Considerations in the Virtual Environment

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for students between the ages of 10 and 19. Despite this, suicide is preventable when students in need are connected to appropriate supports. As many schools start the school year with distance learning, school mental health professionals need to adapt suicide intervention practices from brick-and-mortar practices to the virtual environment. This session will focus on the considerations for suicide intervention in a virtual, distance learning environment.

Author: Lisa Specter-Dunaway, Ali Faruk, and Hamilton Holloway

Preventing Child Maltreatment in a Virtual Learning Environment

Safety, trust, collaboration, and connection must all come FIRST for children before the practices we think of traditionally as “learning.” Preventing abuse and neglect of children in this new environment of physical distancing means focusing on relationships as protective factors. Creating multiple and regular touch points for children to connect with people with whom they have strong relationships will create spaces for understanding the health of the child and preventing problems.


Author: Kristin Souers

Becoming Invested

In this interview, Kristin Souers will share information about trauma and what it means for education. She will talk about the latest research and how the brain can be impacted by stress and discuss the difference between trauma-informed and trauma-invested practices. She will also enlighten you with ideas that you can implement into your practices, as well as suggestions for how you can support your team in developing trauma-invested practices.

Author: Pete Hall

Invested Strategies Designed to Meet Students’ Needs

Educators (teachers, counselors, administrators, and other professionals) often identify stuggling students by their disruptive behavior. Typically, those educators then seek out resources and strategies that will help eliminate the distracting, unsafe, and disruptive behaviors. However, in order to truly make a long-term impact, especially with children affected by trauma, educators must contextualize the behaviors, create a safe space, identify the most pressing unmet need, and design interventions that are targeted to address that need. This is a more complex, and more effective, approach to supporting students than simply engaging in behavior management or classroom management techniques. This interview with Pete Hall, former award-winning principal and best-selling author, will delve into these topics and equip educators with a mindset-shift necessary to tackle those challenging behaviors and situations.

Author: Dr. Emily Goodman-Scott

Universal Trauma-Informed Practices for Re-Entry

In this session, Dr. Goodman-Scott will begin by providing a brief overview of Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) as applied to school mental health providers (e.g., school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers). Then, the majority of this session will be used to provide suggestions for the 2020-2021 K-12 school re-entry process.

Author: John Kronstain

Building More Authentic and Genuine Relationships with Students

School counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers often pride themselves in their ability to build positive relationships with students. Building rapport is one of the first essential skills learned in most helping profession training programs. However, we sometimes need to go back to the beginning to explore the “how” and “why” surrounding these relationships. Reexamining our “why” can help us identify our implicit biases that keep us from building more authentic and genuine relationships with students. Looking at the “how” better equips us to assist other adults in our buildings as they build relationships with students.

Author: John Kronstain

Building Stronger Relationships with Families

Families play a critical role in the life and development of our students. However, we work in a system that often excludes their voice and knowledge. Building a bridge with a particular family could, in turn, build bridges with other families in their neighborhood. Whether we are in-person or virtual, having family buy-in, support, feedback, and voice will be critical to the success of our students. We need to examine the barriers that keep us, the school, from forming these relationships and the barriers that keep them, the families, from forming relationships with us.

Author: Chidi Uche

Virginia Heals

This webinar is an overview of the Virginia HEALS model of service delivery developed as part of the Linking Systems of Care (LSC) for Children and Youth. This model aims to assist service providers in better linking systems of care across systems and providing support and care to children, youth, and families impacted by trauma and/or victimization. A toolkit of resources including a trauma screening tool, a referral and response protocol, and several trainings was designed to support community and state-level implementation of the Virginia HEALS Model for the provision of services and referrals to children, youth, and families.