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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.

Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., ISMHI Director
Christy Gauss, M.S.W., ISMHI Facilitator
(812) 855-6508

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Home » Schools

About School Mental Health

Growth, learning and development in all domains happen in many environments and, for most of the population, in schools. Fostering mental health in schools leads to an environment that supports the development of the whole child and helps them grow into productive and successful adults.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) refers to a set of traumatic experiences that many people face in childhood. This trauma can impact how children perform in the classroom as well as have lifelong adverse health effects.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

The number of students diagnosed with ADHD continues to rise each year. As a mental health initiative we believe it is important to take a holistic approach to treating and understanding ADHD and to also become aware of how closely ADHD symptoms mirror those of toxic stress and trauma.

Brain-Aligned Strategies

Brain-aligned strategies are meant to address the three domains of compassionate schools that promote the social, emotional, and mental health of our students, move us towards prevention, and are critical to academic achievement. The three domains are safety/connection & assurance, self-regulation, and self-competency.

Bullying Prevention

Bullying is both an outcome and a cause directly related to student’s social, emotional, and mental health. Let’s move towards prevention.

Educational Neuroscience

Refers to the general field of academic and scientific study of how the brain learns. Within this discipline we understand how stress affects the brain’s ability to process information and how to create and design instruction and engagement strategies so that we are addressing the critical emotional, social, and cognitive developmental stages in every classroom.


Resiliency is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant stress. It is the counterbalance of trauma. Resilient school staff and students lead to resilient and thriving families, and communities.  

School Health Assessment & Performance Evaluation System (SHAPE)

SHAPE is a free, web-based, interactive system designed to integrate students’ social, emotional, and mental health supports into existing school quality improvement plans, initiatives, and frameworks, such as PBIS and MTSS, and to improve school mental health accountability, excellence, & sustainability.

School Safety & Crisis Response

While addressing school safety must include building security and training teachers, staff and students, we must pay attention to the effects this current environment has on our students’ social, emotional, and mental health. In addition, we cannot get to the root cause of school violence without addressing mental health.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

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

Suicide Awareness and Prevention in Schools

This topic page is designed to help schools meet the requirements of legislation (SEA 230) that was recently passed pertaining to suicide awareness, prevention, and training in our schools and to ensure that we do not lose one more Indiana student to suicide.

Teaching Students About Their Brains

Teaching students about their own neuro-anatomy empowers them, gives them insight into their own stress responses, and enhances the use of other brain-aligned strategies.  This topic page provides easy to use resources to do so.

Trauma, Stress, and Learning

For students, trauma is when a stressful event(s) has overwhelmed and compromised their health and welfare, including their ability to self-regulate and learn due to the fact that the stress load can impact thinking, behavior, and learning at every level.


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