IU's Indiana School Mental Health Initiative to host state's first Educating the Whole Child Summit

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick will be a featured presenter at Indiana's Educating the Whole Child Summit, hosted by the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative at Indiana University's Indiana Institute on Disability and Community.

School districts across Indiana have recognized the need to build capacity and address the development of the whole child as it relates to social, emotional, physical and cognitive well-being. Simply stated, stressed brains do not learn the same as brains that can emotionally regulate and connect to a sense of purpose.

When these indicators go unrecognized or there is a lack of knowledge about their effects on learning and behavior, children experiencing adversity and high levels of stress are often identified or mislabeled as having behavior, discipline and/or learning issues in school.

"Social and emotional health supports are key to better understanding and meeting our students' needs," McCormick said. "We are excited to partner with the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative and work to develop effective practices and professional development opportunities which will enhance our schools' mental health efforts."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 percent of Indiana high school students seriously considered suicide in 2015, which was the third highest rate in the nation. By 2030, the World Health Organization says that depression will be the No. 1 global health risk.

Indiana's Educating the Whole Child Summit will share best and promising practices from school districts and their community partners for supporting students and school personnel within existing school frameworks and initiatives.

"When we know better, we do better, and the science has clearly proven that in order to improve the academic outcomes of our students, all of our students, we must first address their social and emotional needs," said Christy Gauss, school mental health facilitator for the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative. "The beautiful thing is this also allows us to preventively address so many other issues such as bullying, suicide, school safety, substance abuse, poor health outcomes later in life, mental illness, suspensions/expulsions and the school-to-prison pipeline."

The summit will take place Feb. 27 and 28 at the Monroe Convention Center in Bloomington. Featured presenters include McCormick; Tyrone Martinez-Black, policy and practice specialist for the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning; and Elizabeth Connors, director of quality improvements at the University of Maryland's National Center for School Mental Health.

Summit partners include the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction.

"There is perhaps no greater challenge facing our schools than addressing the social, emotional, behavioral and mental wellness needs of our students," said Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative. "Too often, we look at supports and services in a fragmented manner instead of addressing the needs of the whole child. With this summit, the goal of the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative is that districts will come as teams and leave with plans to create sustainable change in how they support the needs of today's students."

Media Contact

Joel Fosha

Indiana Institute on Disability and Community

Phone: 812-855-6508

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Email: foshaj@indiana.edu

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