The American School Health Association (ASHA) is a national, multidisciplinary professional association that collaborates with Erika’s Lighthouse and others on a mental health initiative – Shine Light on Depression. ASHA’s work centers around connecting health and learning by encouraging collaboration across disciplines within the school and community to ensure that students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. This is evidenced by our partnerships intended to provide tools and resources for bringing mental health out of the darkness and into the light in support of students.
Maximizing learning opportunities requires that students are healthy and ready to learn. A large component of this preparation is being mentally and emotionally able to focus, integrate information, and practice skills. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has experienced a collective trauma that has upset the mental well-being of school-aged children and the adults that care for and support them. This has led to a recognition of the importance of mental health and its central role in school health. We have seen that learning can take place in different settings using varied teaching strategies and modalities. However, when the mental health of our students and staff is compromised, learning is undermined.
In a survey of school employees, a primary concern throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was mental health. We know that students exposed to trauma are more likely to experience poor mental health leading to lower academic achievement. Even prior to the pandemic, mental health concerns were the chief reasons for visits to school-based health centers in some areas. Even when mental health resources are readily available through a school-based health center, utilization is not uniform across all students. Unfortunately, many schools lack the resources, infrastructure, and personnel to provide comprehensive mental health services to students and staff. As such, most youth receive mental health services outside of an educational setting. This underscores the necessity to adopt the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child approach whereby all components within the school coordinate with community resources to provide mental health support when and where needed. This also includes supporting youth-led mental health efforts, reducing stigma, promoting resilience, and supporting othered groups (e.g., BIPOC, LGBTQIA+).
ASHA supports the implementation of WSCC and those professionals putting students at the center by offering a variety of professional development opportunities to support the enhancement of staff knowledge and skills around mental health. In line with our focus on collaboration, our partnership with Erika’s Lighthouse on Shine Light on Depression brings free and accessible resources into the hands of school staff, parents, and youth to reduce stigma, stimulate conversation, and improve the mental health of our students. We are so proud of this collaboration and hope to get into as many school communities as possible.
Erika’s Lighthouse is a non-profit organization founded in 2004 that is dedicated to educating teens and raising awareness surrounding depression and mental health. Our programs are tailored to our mission of making sure no young person feels alone in their depression. Erika’s Lighthouse strives to help teens create an inclusive school culture and eliminate the stigma of mental health. Erika’s Lighthouse evidence-informed programs not only bring awareness to young people about depression and mental health; they build a structure for young people to thrive and survive, even when they might be experiencing depression.