Supporting the Mental Health of Students and Staff Through the Pandemic and Beyond

May 2021

Supporting the Mental Health of Students and Staff Through the Pandemic and Beyond

From the Director

The understanding of students’ social, emotional, and mental health development is at the core of creating and promoting safe and supportive learning environments. These skills and supports are essential to laying the groundwork for students to feel accepted and supported and ultimately ready to learn and reach their full potential. We must recognize that our schools are extensions of our communities, and their role in these areas is an integral piece in supporting the full developmental needs of our students.


Although this is a universal principle, the COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced the need for schools to intentionally focus on these areas. The pandemic and social isolation have led to significantly great numbers of mental health concerns in both new cases and the severity of existing ones. Our students have also lost significant time and opportunities from their social development. We have yet to fully realize the full impact of this as students begin to return to full in-person instruction. We also cannot minimize the impact of the pandemic on school staff through both their own experiences as secondary trauma, as a result of school staff consistently sharing in student and families’ experiences.  With this in mind, it is of the utmost importance for us to refocus our efforts to intentionally address the social-emotional, and mental health needs of our students and staff as we move forward.


This newsletter has been done in collaboration with the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). It focuses on the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our school communities, related to social, emotional, and mental health, and how education leaders can proactively respond. NASP represents and supports the profession of school psychology by advancing effective practices to improve students' learning, behavior, and mental health and maintaining essential standards for ethics and practice. It released a research report, “Child and Adolescent Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic” (NASP Report) and has committed extensive efforts to support school staff in meeting these needs.


As we begin to look forward to the 2021-22 school year, we must fully recognize the impacts that this past year has had on our school communities.  We must take steps to focus our resources and efforts to understand where they are and to then meet them with needed tools and resources. We hope the articles and resources in this issue reemphasis the importance of these priorities and provide the foundational understanding to help drive conversations and planning in your communities. Please reach out with questions or comments using the online discussion group to engage other subscribers from around the country or via


Thank you for your continued interest and commitment fostering safe schools for all our students and district employees.


Adam Lustig
Director, NSBA Center for Safe Schools


February 2022
Returning Stronger: Student Reengagement Through and Beyond the Pandemic

May 2021
Supporting the Mental Health of Students and Staff Through the Pandemic and Beyond

January 2021
Rethinking The Role of The School Resource Officer

October 2020
The Value of Sports and Performance Programs: Understanding the Benefits and Prioritizing Programs Through a Pandemic

July 2020
Prevention and Intervention: An Understanding of Behavioral Threat Assessments

May 2020
The COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned

January 2020
Cybersecurity: Understanding the Threats and Risks

October 2019
Rethinking Bullying Prevention

Helping Students

Helping Students Develop Resiliency Post COVID and Beyond

Christina N. Conolly, Lisa Katherine C. Cowan, & Lisa Coffey

Over this past year, we have heard repeated accounts of the traumatic impact of the pandemic on children and youth. From the countless lives lost, physical isolation from loved ones, absence of normal experiences, financial distress, and the myriad pressures on mental health, everyone has been impacted in some way by COVID-19.

Read More

Supporting the Mental Health and Well-Being of Educators: Prioritizing Care-for-the-Caregiver Culture in Schools

By Scott Woitaszewski

Significant attention has been given to the psychological well-being of children and youth during the COVID-19 pandemic and other concurrent pervasive stressors. The potential for increased stress or psychological trauma in young people is complicated by the unknowns of multiple societal challenges (e.g., a pandemic, racism, civil unrest), and, for some, individual personal histories of prior traumas.

Read More

Supporting Student Social-Emotional Learning and Mental and Behavioral Health Post COVID-19

By Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach

This past year has been nothing but unexpected. As the country grappled with an unprecedented pandemic, schools, students, and families faced significant disruptions. There was no one size fits all approach to dealing with COVID-19 in schools. However, many students lost instructional time, access to social-emotional and mental health supports, and the sense of connection and community fostered in the school environment. As the nation shifts its focus to supporting a return to in-person instruction and addressing the needs of students,...

Read More

National Statistics and Resources

  • 1 in 5 children and youth have a diagnosable emotional, behavioral, or mental health disorder.
  • 1 10 young people have a mental health challenge that is severe enough to impair how they function at home, school, or in the community.
  • Only 40 percent of students with emotional, behavioral, and mental health disorders graduate from high school, compared to the national average of 76 percent.
  • Over 50% of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities ages 14 and older drop out of high school. This is the highest drop-out rate of any disability group.

 Source: Problems at School | Association for Children's Mental Health (

 7 million students are in schools with police but no counselors.

  • 3 million students are in schools with police but no nurses.
  • 6 million students are in schools with police but no school psychologists.
  • 10 million students are in schools with police but no social workers.
  • 14 million students are in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker.


Source: ACLU - Cops and No Counselors

 Additional research and statistics from the National Association of School Psychologist, specific to Child and Adolescent Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic, can be found at NASP Report.



 NSBA Resources:

 Webinar - Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Health: Hosted with Mental Health America

This webinar addresses the data collected from Mental Health America’s screening program that allows for unique insights to the mental health of young people during the COVID-19 crisis. Mental Health America’s screening program ( has a suite of free, confidential, and anonymous clinically validated tools that are available to individuals to use to assess their mental health and determine if they are experiencing symptoms of a mental illness. During this session, you will learn more about student mental health, and through MHA’s data, what youth are looking for online. MHA will share research on best practices in promoting early intervention among students and school staff as well as programs and resources to invest in to support emotionally stronger communities.


Webinar - Navigating Virtual Education - With Calm, Connectedness and Compassion (COVID-19): Hosted with the Attachment and Trauma Network

The National School Boards Association's Center for Safe Schools, in collaboration with the Attachment & Trauma Network, hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on Navigating Virtual Education -- with Calm, Connectedness, and Compassion. This discussion focuses on the impact of school closures and the new "normal" this is creating for families and educators alike. It addresses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools and families and how we can help children and families, especially those with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), navigate this new environment. 


Webinar - Trauma-Informed Schools are Safe Schools

Safe schools are not the same as trauma-informed schools. Trauma-informed schools are on the rise. There are similarities and differences between the two. This discussion addresses where they intersect and diverge as well as the qualities and characteristics of being safe and trauma-informed.


Adverse Childhood Experiences: The School Board's Role in Building Connections and Support for Students

Groundbreaking research in the 1990s uncovered a connection between childhood trauma and long-term physical and mental well-being in adulthood. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) also impact the emotional and behavioral needs of students and present a more immediate concern for schools. This report provides an overview of ACEs and their effect on a student's readiness to learn, as well as the role of school boards in providing meaningful support.

National Organizations:

 The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) represents and supports the profession of school psychology by advancing effective practices to improve students' learning, behavior, and mental health and maintaining essential standards for ethics and practice.


Mental Health America (MHA)

Mental Health America (MHA) is dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. MHA’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal.


The American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) supports school counselors' efforts to help students focus on academic, career and social/emotional development so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society. ASCA provides professional development, publications, and other resources, research, and advocacy to school counselors around the globe. 


The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI)

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.


The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is a trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL). CASEL supports educators and policy leaders and enhances the experiences and outcomes for all PreK-12 students.


The Attachment and Trauma Network Inc. (ATN)

The Attachment and Trauma Network (ATN) is dedicated to promoting the healing of children impacted by trauma through supporting their families, schools, and communities.

Additional Resources 

ACLU Report - Cops and No Counselors: How the Lack of School Mental Health Staff is Harming Students

This report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reviews state-level student-to-school-based mental health personnel ratios, as well as data concerning law enforcement in schools.


Mental Health America - Mental Health Month Toolkit

Mental Health America releases a yearly Mental Health Month Toolkit. This year's MHM toolkit focuses on the Tools 2 Thrive theme with the goal of providing strategies and tools to help us all move through the challenges faced during the last year and to develop practices that help us thrive.

This toolkit includes printable educational handouts and worksheets, sample communication and social media materials and images that can be integrated into your own communication plans, activities, and resource materials. 

This toolkit addresses the following topics:

  • Adapting after trauma and stress
  • Dealing with anger and frustration
  • Getting out of thinking traps
  • Processing big changes
  • Taking time for yourself
  • Radical acceptance