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Notes From the Field: Addressing Mental Health Is an Important Factor in Improving School Safety

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2019
6 pages

Christine Harms, Director of the Colorado School Safety Resource Center, discusses the importance of the psychological well-being of students as a critical component in improving school safety.


She focuses on helping students feel more connected to their school community through the development of social and emotional learning skills that will facilitate their beneficial functioning in relationships and groups. In Colorado, suicides are the leading cause of death for youth and young adults. On the Safe2Tell hotline, an anonymous tip line operated by the Attorney General's Office, the most reported tip pertains to callers' concern about the potential for suicide of a classmate. Although teachers cannot be expected to diagnose mental health issues with their students, teachers should have basic background training in mental health issues, such that they know when and how to refer students to mental health professionals. The Colorado School Safety Resource Center provides a number of free online training courses for any interested person; however, the most accessed training program is a course for educators on mental health. This course provides basics on symptoms manifested by depressed students and how school performance may suffer due to anxiety or other common mental health issues. Colorado has been a national leader in establishing threat assessment teams. These teams are composed of a mental health practitioner, school administrator, and law enforcement official. The team evaluates situations in which a student may be at risk of violent behavior. The team determines whether immediate attention is needed or whether other resources of support should be provided to the student.

Date Published: October 1, 2019