Schools need collaboration, not packaged solutions, for best mental health programs

May 4, 2011
Melissa Maras is an assistant professor of school psychology in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. Credit: MU News Bureau

Top researchers throughout the country have developed mental health programs to address many of the most profound issues facing schools, including students' disruptive and aggressive behavior, anger outbursts, anxiety, and suicide. However, according to University of Missouri researchers, many schools lack the capacity to access and fully adopt these programs. This lack of capacity hurts schools, students and families.

In a recent publication, Melissa Maras, assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology in the MU College of Education, and Joni Splett, a doctoral student, suggest the gap between research and practice in school mental health remains the primary barrier to helping schools meet the growing mental health needs of their students.

Experts in school mental health agree that a large investment of money, time and training has been made to develop and disseminate school mental health programs that have been tested and proven to work. Yet, in developing these "Evidence-based Practices" in school mental health, researchers have not given enough consideration to the unique context of schools, leaving many schools unable to capitalize on new ideas and scientific evidence, Maras said.

"Every school is unique, with a distinct culture and different set of needs and resources," says Maras. "Too often researchers are ready with the solution before they really know what the problem is. What schools really need is help sorting through everything they're already doing to figure out what's working and what's not, and that can be difficult."

In their article, "Closing the Gap in School Mental Health: A Community-Centered Model for School Psychology," published recently in Psychology in the Schools, the MU researchers offer an alternative to the dominant "Research-to-Practice" model in school . The "Community-Centered Model" emphasizes improving practices that are already being used in school while easing the transition to best practices.

As schools face increased accountability measures and decreased financial resources, collaboration between schools and researchers will need to be more complementary, Maras said.

"We need to start by asking schools and communities what they need from science and then partner with them to help them evaluate their innovative home-grown solutions and identify, implement, and sustain new programs," Maras said.

"We believe schools know what's best for their students" says Splett. "Our job is to help them improve what they're already doing and work with them to implement new programs and practices in a way that makes sense."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Exposure to violence hinders short-term memory, cognitive control

July 24, 2017
Being exposed to and actively remembering violent episodes—even those that happened up to a decade before—hinders short-term memory and cognitive control, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National ...

Using money to buy time linked to increased happiness

July 24, 2017
New research is challenging the age-old adage that money can't buy happiness.

Researchers pave new path toward preventing obesity

July 24, 2017
People who experience unpredictable childhoods due to issues such as divorce, crime or frequent moves face a higher risk of becoming obese as adults, according to a new study by a Florida State University researcher.

Higher cognitive abilities linked to greater risk of stereotyping

July 24, 2017
People with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to learn and apply social stereotypes, finds a new study. The results, stemming from a series of experiments, show that those with higher cognitive abilities also more ...

Neuroticism may postpone death for some

July 24, 2017
Data from a longitudinal study of over 500,000 people in the United Kingdom indicate that having higher levels of the personality trait neuroticism may reduce the risk of death for individuals who report being in fair or ...

Psychologists say our 'attachment style' applies to social networks like Facebook

July 24, 2017
A new investigation appearing this week in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests a strong association between a person's attachment style—how avoidant or anxious people are in their close relationships—and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.