MindMatters in Minutes. Building support pathways.
Say you decide to extend your school’s mental health capabilities by linking up with external support services such as doctors, counsellors, agencies and online services — how do you make the most of these connections?
If you just refer students on like you were lobbing them over a wall, into the hands of specialists who you think will magically fix their issues and then send them back, then you’ll be disappointed with the results.
As much as possible you should try to collaborate closely with your chosen mental health providers.
The simplest way to do this is to have regular conversations to get to know each other better, and work on shared understandings and processes.
Important questions are things like, what should trigger a referral to this particular service?
What constitutes an emergency?
What are realistic expectations for each party in terms of support they can provide, and how you can improve the way you work together over time?
With these kinds of questions, both the school and the external services can learn a great deal from each other and work closely to provide an effective support system for students.
But it’s not just about building great relationships. You also need to think about how you can build and promote the pathways from your school to the service providers.
Some of this is just about providing straightforward information so that students and parents understand what each service does, and when it should be accessed.
But you may also need to make efforts to reduce stigma around mental health issues and services if you want to encourage help-seeking.
And internally you will want to establish clear referral procedures so that staff can confidently take action when they become concerned about a student.
By strengthening your internal communications and procedures, and establishing strong relationships with your support services, you can create strong pathways from your school, to outside services and back again, so that students with emerging issues get the right support at the right time.
So consider how you develop support pathways in your school. How do you make it clear to staff and students what is available and how it is used? And how could you strengthen your relationships with support services?