Indiana School Mental Health Initiative

Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University

  • Where is the best place to improve the social, emotional, and mental health of as many people as we possibly could? Answer: Our schools.
  • Stressed brains do not learn the same as brains that feel safe, feel connection, and can manage emotions.
  • Resilient school staff and students lead to resilient and thriving families, and communities.
  • About ISMHI

Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., ISMHI Director
Kristy Eaton, Ed.D., M.S.W, L.C.S.W., ISMHI Assistant Director
(812) 855-6508

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Common Language


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES): Stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan.

Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Assessment (CANS): The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Comprehensive Assessment is a multipurpose tool developed to support care planning and level of care decision-making, to facilitate quality improvement initiatives, and to allow for the monitoring of outcomes of services. The CANS was developed from a communication perspective so as to facilitate the linkage between the assessment process and the design of individualized service plans including the application of evidence-based practices.

Community Mental Health Wraparound (CMHW) and Community Mental Health Initiative (CMHI): These programs are designed to provide youth, with serious emotional disturbances (SED) with intensive, home and community based wraparound services. These programs are intended to supplement the youth’s current services by using an individualized, family driven, and strengths-based approach. Clients who are approved for these programs will receive a Wraparound Facilitator and could also receive a Habilitation Specialist, Training & Support for Unpaid Caregivers and Respite. Those clients in the CMHI program may also be eligible for additional services.

Community Mental Health Center (CMHC): The CMHC program was developing in the 60s to provide mental health services to those with serious and persistent mental illness, regardless of financial means. Today CMHCs continue to be the mental health safety net for both adults and children. While CMHCs take a variety of reimbursements and often use grant to fund programs, Medicaid tends to be the largest single payer of services.

CMHC Case Manager/Care Facilitator: Work with assigned clients to build skills associated with diagnosis. Must demonstrate medical necessity in interventions provided and can only work with individuals with Medicaid, an eligible diagnosis per Medicaid, and a CANS score of 3 or higher. CMHC Case Managers/Care Facilitators provide overall care/treatment coordination and completes referrals for community resources that would benefit the assigned client and family. They also provide on-going assessment of the client and family to assure that services and supports are meeting the needs. Usually available only at Community Mental Health Centers (CMHC).

Compassionate Schools: A school where staff and students learn to be aware of the challenges faced by others. They respond to the physical, social, and emotional challenges faced by students and families by offering support and guidance to remove barriers to learning and students are also taught skills to respond to one another through a compassionate lens.

Educational Neuroscience: General field of academic and scientific study of how the brain learns and changes. This has significant implications for education as it is making clear that adversity, trauma, and stress have significant effects on a student’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Simply stated, stressed brains do not learn the same as brains that feel safe, can emotionally regulate, and feel connection. Because these stressors either go unrecognized or there is a lack of knowledge about their effects on learning and behavior, traumatized and stressed children are often identified or mislabeled as having behavior, discipline, and/or learning issues in a school setting. Educational Neuroscience is the Theory of Change that is the foundation for the critical need to address our students’ social, emotional, and mental health.

Equity: Each student gets what he or she needs to reach their full potential in school, which includes supporting individual social, emotional, behavioral, mental, and physical health.

Historical Trauma: Complex and collective trauma experienced over time and across generations by a group of people who share an identity, affiliation, or circumstances.

Implicit Bias: An unconscious tendency, inclination, prejudice, or preference for or against someone or something is what psychologists call implicit bias. These automatic associations pass spontaneously through our minds and often lead people to make decisions that confirm existing preferences, even when people feel they are being objective. It is a commonly held belief that everyone has implicit bias.

Indiana System of Care (IN SOC): The local and regional community takes responsibility for building a comprehensive system that leads to sustainable success for youth and families. SOC adheres to the following principles: family-driven, youth-guided, collaboration, community-based, individualized, strength-based, trauma-informed, culturally relevant, outcome-based.

Mental Health: A state of well-being in which one realizes his or her own abilities, can positively cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. It is one’s ability to respond to challenges.

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS): A framework that addresses academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning in a fully integrated system of support.

Neuroplasticity: Is the change in neural pathways and synapses that occurs due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. During such changes, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, deleting the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, and strengthening the necessary ones.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS): A multi-tiered prevention based framework. It emphasizes the establishment of organizational supports or systems that give school personnel capacity to use research-based interventions accurately and successfully. When implementing PBIS, expected behaviors are taught in a systematic fashion.

“Private” Mental Health Providers: Those that are outside the CMHC system. They may be not-for-profits or they may be for-profit entities. Each provider has its own specialization and may or may not serve children and youth. In addition, not all services will be available at every provider. Private providers also take a variety of reimbursements: some may take insurance, some may take Medicaid, and others may not. These providers cannot provide case management/skills guiding services – typically only a CMHC service unless in a for-profit entity (meaning they work solely with DCS/Probation referrals).

Psychiatric Evaluations: An evaluation to determine need for ongoing medication services and typically requires ongoing medication management. Attendance at these appointments is extremely important due to typical policies related to attendance that sometimes result in clients being “banned” from medication clinic services for up to a year due to a number of “no shows” or cancellations by client.

Psychological Testing: Students complete a battery of assessments in order to determine diagnoses, IQ, etc. Must be conducted by a doctoral level provider.

Recovery: From the perspective of an individual with mental illness, this means gaining and retaining hope, understanding of ones abilities and disabilities, engagement in an active life, personal autonomy, social identity, meaning and purpose in life, and a positive sense of self.

Resilience: The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant stress. It is the counterbalance of trauma.

Response to Intervention (RTI): A multi-tiered framework to identify and support students with learning and behavior needs. Its primary focus is on academics and instruction.

School Climate: The feel of the school, the behaviors and points of view exhibited and experienced by students, teachers, and other stakeholders. School climate includes safety, relationships, teaching and learning, and the environment of the organization.

School Based Mental Health Therapist: A master’s level mental health provider that works with some students who are struggling with mental health issues who need more support than a school counselor or school social worker can provide. The providers work in the school providing individual, family, and group therapy to students they work with. Often times thee providers work for an outside organization.

School Counselor: A master’s level counselor who works to significantly increase the number of students who are emotionally healthy, realize academic success, graduate from high school, obtain valuable postsecondary credentials necessary for meaningful employment, and are prepared to compete and prosper in the global society in which they will live and work. They provide guidance to all students, counseling and advocacy to some students, and are an integral part of the educational leadership team in their school. School counselors focus on 3 main domains: academic, career, and social emotional and work with students in the classroom, in small groups, or one on one.

School Social Worker: A master’s level social worker who works in the school to provide services related to a students’ social, emotional, and life adjustment to school and/or the society. They are a link between home, school, and the community helping to provide services to promote and support student’s academic, social, and emotional success. School social workers work with students in the classroom, in small groups, with their families, or one-on-one.

Self-Regulation: The ability to manage emotions and behavior in accordance with the demands of the situation. It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, to calm when upset, and to adjust to a change in expectations.

Skills Training: Skills Trainers help children and teens (as well as parents) develop the skills to overcome social and psychological barriers in order to function adequately in life. They work with youth at school, home, or other community settings to assess skill deficits, teach skills, and assist with the application of newly learned skills to the natural environment. They are also available to work with parents on issues that are related to their child’s emotional and behavioral health. Usually available only at the Community Mental Health Center (CMHC).

Social Emotional Learning (SEL): The process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Stress-Behavior: The term to replace the use of describing “behavior” in our classrooms (i.e. “misbehavior” or “bad behavior”). This prompts us to focus on the root cause of stress-behavior or disengagement, which has to do with a student’s ability to regulate their emotions in the face of stress and adversity. When we understand the root cause, we must then respond differently and move towards strategies that teach students how to manage their emotions and away from punishment.

Stigma: When someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from someone else. Stigma can even come from an internal place. Self-stigma: Occurs when an individual buys into society’s misconceptions about mental health. By internalizing these beliefs, individuals may experience feelings of shame, anger, or despair that keeps them from seeking supports, employment or treatment for their mental health condition, including substance use disorders.

Substance Misuse: The harmful use of substances (like drugs and alcohol) for non-medical purposes.

Tier 1-Universal: Practices that support the social and emotional development of all students.

Tier 2-Targeted: Targeted mental health and substance abuse prevention with small groups for students with similar concerns.

Tier 3-Intensive: Individual therapeutic interventions based on a multi-disciplinary team referral or individual evaluations.

Trauma: The inability of an individual or community to respond in a healthy way (physically, emotionally, and/or mentally) to acute or chronic stress. For students, it is when a stressful event(s) has overwhelmed and compromised health and welfare, including their ability to self-regulate and learn due to the fact that the stress load can impact thinking and learning at every level. This understanding also helps us to shift our language away from “misbehavior” to ‘‘stress-behavior” and therefore compel us to respond more compassionately.

Trauma Informed Approach: Members of an organization have a basic realization about trauma and understand how trauma can affect families, groups, organizations, and communities as well as individuals. People in the organization are also able to recognize the signs of trauma and responds by applying the principles of a trauma-informed approach to all areas of functioning. A trauma-informed approach resists re-traumatization of clients as well as staff members.

Trauma Sensitive Schools (TSS): Schools that understand that adverse experiences in the lives of children are more common than many of us ever imagined, that trauma and stress can impact learning, behavior, and relationships at school, and that a “whole school” approach to trauma-sensitivity is needed. Core attributes of TSS are:

Universal Screening - The systematic assessment of all  children within a given class, grade, school building, or school district, on academic and/or social-emotional indicators that the school personnel and community have agreed are important.”

Well Being: There is no consensus around a single definition of well-being, but there is general agreement that at minimum, well-being includes the presence of positive emotions and moods (e.g., contentment, happiness), the absence of negative emotions (e.g., depression, anxiety), satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning.

Wellness: An active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness; it is a dynamic process of change and growth.

Wraparound: The wraparound process is a collaborative, team-based approach to service and support planning for youth and families with complex needs. It is the highest level of support and services a youth can receive in their natural environment.



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