The SS/HS Model for Mental Health Promotion, Prevention, and Treatment
The vision of the SS/HS initiative includes taking a public health approach to promoting mental health: supporting the mental health of ALL children through the implementation of universal, selected, and indicated prevention interventions. SS/HS initiatives typically include activities and programs addressing each of these levels of prevention, as well as referral to provision of mental health treatment. Identifying objectives for prevention and treatment efforts helps to ensure the development of a school climate that promotes mental health, and a school and community partnership which addresses the unique needs of those with mental health risk factors and problem behaviors, and mental health diagnoses.
Prevention efforts vary according to the level of risk of the children involved, but all efforts are designed to both encourage healthy behaviors and discourage unhealthy or risky behaviors. Effective prevention does not focus solely on children or on a single behavior, but instead involves the many people, environments and skills that affect the mental well-being of children.
Universal prevention interventions promote mental health for all students. These interventions seek to improve school psychosocial environments through interventions such as skills-based health education for social, emotional learning, and promote health, successful teaching and learning and academic success. A social competency program such as Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) that is offered to all students in the school is an example of a universal intervention and falls under Element 2, alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention and early intervention. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is another example of an intervention targeting all students in the general school environment, and falls under Element 3, student behavioral, social and emotional supports. A third example is the implementation of a zero tolerance weapons policy, an Element 1 or safe school policies intervention.
Selective prevention interventions target an identified group of children or individual children whose environment or experiences place them at above average risk of developing mental health problems. A preschool program for children from impoverished neighborhoods such as Nurturing Parent is an example of a selective intervention, and seeks to prevent behavioral problems from developing by improving social and emotional skills. Such a program would fall under Element 5, early childhood social and emotional learning programs.
Indicated prevention interventions focus on individual children who have some symptoms of mental health problems, but whose behaviors do not meet diagnostic criteria. A social skills curriculum for adolescents with substance abuse behaviors such as the Strengthening Families Program is an example, and would also be an Element 3 activity. An after school program for students with truancy or tardiness problems would be an indicated intervention falling under Element 3.
Treatment provides more intensive services to youth who have a diagnosable mental or behavioral health problem and their families, and includes approaches such as Brief Strategic Therapy. Treatment interventions fall under Element 4, mental health services.
The following diagram summarizes this comprehensive approach to mental health for all students:
Sharing this vision of mental health for all with your partners, and using it as a basis for communications with community members in all contexts, can help to build understanding of how diverse SS/HS activities fit together in a comprehensive approach. It can also build support by demonstrating the positive outcomes for ALL children in your community made possible by SS/HS activities.