BIE defines behavioral health (BH) as the emotions and behaviors relating to a student’s mental well-being and their ability to function in everyday life. Examples of BH issues include substance use, psychological distress, self-harm, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Schools must have a specific plan for quickly assisting students who are dealing with BH issues or struggling with transitioning back to school.
The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) and National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) developed several school reentry considerations specific to BH which can assist schools with planning for addressing the unique BH needs of their students.
Specific considerations that must be included in school reopening plans are:
- Strategies and identified supports for students and families for each phase of reopening.
- Plans outlining how teachers and residential staff can set up phone/video calls with students during distance learning time periods to do regular weekly check-ins
- Formal BH referral plan for students who need targeted support and/or counseling services (especially students who are at higher risk for significant stress or trauma from COVID-19).
- Comprehensive referral contact list for behavioral health services in your local area.
School Leaders, Teacher, and Residential Staff should also:
- Not assume that the home is a safe place for some students.
- Realize students in need may not voluntarily disclose their distress or want to talk immediately.
- Weekly check-ins can provide a safe space for students to share concerns.
- Consider the impact of masks on the ability to read emotions and facial expressions, follow speech, participate in speech-related interventions, and generally participate and focus on academics.
- Acknowledge the potential loss experienced by students who cannot participate in various activities that contribute to their development and sense of self (e.g., sports, performances, traveling).
- Be prepared to handle issues related to grief and loss.
Bureau-operated schools should continue to follow the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) protocol and Critical Incident Reporting (CIR) policy. Tribally-controlled schools are encouraged to adopt a SCAN protocol and CIR Policy.