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Promoting Hope and Peer Learning: New England MHTTC School Mental Health Initiative

By Ingrid Padgett, Communications and Program Strategist, School Mental Health Initiative, New England MHTTC

Our SY 2023-2024 Theme: Prepare, Inspire, and Engage

Through our School Mental Health Initiative, public and private K-12 schools in New England gain access to evidence-based mental health resources to enhance school culture and prepare the school mental health workforce to extend trauma-skilled practices. Our efforts are designed to help schools cultivate compassionate school communities that buffer against the negative effects of trauma, build resilience for all students, and provide stress-relief and enhanced well-being for teachers and other school personnel, as well as students.

We also hope to inspire educators to grow as compassionate and empowered professionals who uplift their schools and communities. We offer a variety of interactive, practice-based training and technical assistance activities for educators and mental health professionals. Our programs, services, and collaborations are designed to increase the ability of school leaders to engage staff, teachers, students, families, and community stakeholders in mission-critical efforts while also fostering a thriving, positive school climate.

Through an extension of our four-year partnership with the Center for Educational Improvement and Yale University Department of Psychiatry's Program for Recovery and Community Health we are partnering to establish a network of educational leaders trained in trauma-informed practices through the Compassionate Schools Leadership Academy (CSLA). The CSLA trains school leaders in high-need areas to apply trauma-informed practices in classrooms to address American children's pressing mental health needs.

Our collaborative efforts with districts and schools throughout the New England region have provided us with impactful opportunities to learn from and engage with administrators and teachers with various educational backgrounds and life experiences that influence their ability to support the academic and emotional well-being of students. Through peer learning activities paired with intentional training and technical assistance, like our Childhood-Trauma Learning Collaborative (C-TLC), we have developed a training library that offers a cohesive set of strategies, tool, and practices to create a school community that works together to reduce and respond compassionately to trauma.

Turning Lessons Into Universal Instruction

Over a three year period, our school mental health team worked closely with 26 C-TLC Fellows who took school culture assessments, developed action plans, implemented compassionate school practices, developed or refined comprehensive school mental health systems, and engaged families and community partners in this work. During peer learning sessions, these inspiring leaders told us how they implemented our Compassionate School Mental Health Model in districts and schools. They also told us how to refine it to meet the needs of the youth-serving systems that must work together to genuinely change the way we respond to and work toward preventing childhood trauma. We embedded these lessons from the real world into our free, self-guided online course,

This 12-hour online course offers recommendations to cultivate a compassionate school community. Enroll in this free course and learn how to implement the Compassionate School Mental Health model being used to enhance services to schools and districts in the New England region as delivered in the districts and schools that are a part of our School Mental Health Initiative.

  • Learn about the neurobiology of trauma and toxic stress, how it affects staff and student well-being, and best practices for preventing, responding to, and alleviating the effects of trauma.

  • Get guidance on developing a vision to transform into a compassionate school community that includes the voices of many stakeholders.

  • Gain an understanding of how a compassionate school mental health support system can help schools create systems, policies, and protocols to prevent, address, and recover from tragedies and crises including staff or student suicide, school violence, natural disasters, and global pandemics.

All of these activities, including case studies, allow for knowledge application and prepare districts and schools to consider implications for schoolwide implementation.

Promoting collaborations that ensure holistic mental health supports for everyone in the school community

Schools need more trauma-skilled personnel—administrators, educators, behavioral health and other professionals to help youth and their families cope with the impact of trauma. Everyone in the school building can help to create and sustain a compassionate school community that fosters respect, promotes equity, and improves the resilience of students and staff so that they can lead more productive and healthier lives.

Our Healthcare workers and Educators Addressing and Reducing Trauma (HEART) Collective was convened to enhance collaborations between community health centers and schools to support positive mental health and well-being for youth in school-based settings. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to help youth-serving systems collaborate in ways that support students, families, and staff, with increased awareness, feedback from stakeholders, and buy-in from your school community, you can implement signature programming that promotes wellness.

The New England MHTTC's School Mental Health Initiative's slate of SY2023-2024 training and technical assistance activities will feature peer listening-and-learning forums, with an emphasis on highlighting ways to connect priorities and secure funding to address trauma through school-based collaborations that offer addiction, prevention, and mental health programming to support the mental health and well-being of everyone in the school community. As a part of these efforts, we will continue and extend our work with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Region 1 Office, Health Resources and Services Administration’s Office of Regional Operations in Region 1, and our partners in the SAMHSA-funded Technology Transfer Center (TTC) Network—the New England Addiction and the New England Prevention TTCs—to help school teams design and refine their comprehensive, inclusive school mental health systems or to choose from a menu of options to promote holistic mental health for the entire school community.

Our programs, services, and collaborations are designed to increase the ability of school leaders to engage staff, teachers, students, families, and community stakeholders in mission-critical efforts while also fostering a thriving, positive school climate.

  • Stay posted to our online home for updates on event opportunities and product releases.

  • View our archive and sign up, if you're not receiving our bimonthly publication, Compassion Action News. Our e-newsletter shares best practices for cultivating compassionate school communities, highlights school mental health events hosted across the New England region, and offers a snapshot of recently released products and resources from the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network.

  • Request access to our "members-only" HEART Collective Community for ongoing opportunities to communicate, collaborate and connect with peers in the educational and mental health arenas throughout the school year.


Mental Health Technology Transfer Center. (2021, October 19). School Mental Health Initiative response to the nation's youth mental health crisis. Retrieved August 31, 2023.


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