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Promoting Mental Health Literacy for Youth

​Overview of Problem:
Stigma contributes to a well-documented eight to ten-year delay from onset of mental illness to delivered services and treatments, with many people never receiving care. While some students may receive mental health education, systemic inequities exist in terms of availability, quality, and depth of content.

Many schools also express strong interest in providing a range of mental health supports (spanning from prevention to indicated treatment) for students, but struggle to effectively build capacity. Leadership is critical for any organizational practice change. School leaders (i.e., principals) are often inadequately supported to champion mental health programming within their buildings and districts.

Washington State shall be a model for the nation as an example of how to reduce stigma by educating all youth in mental health. In addition, supported and strengthened school leadership will ensure a positive school climate where all students feel safe and supported, eliminating mental health barriers to learning.

Basic learning or literacy standards are already developed through OSPI. A Mental Health Curriculum for high schools is available for Washington state schools and is already being implemented throughout the state. We aim to see that all students have access to needed information and are able to meet mental health literacy standards (as mapped by OSPI) throughout our state.


  • This initiative was attached to a legislative slate of recommendations in a Mental Health legislative steering group that provided direction to the Children’s Mental Health Workgroup. Mental Health Literacy was championed as the foundational support to a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) being developed at OSPI and the SMART Center.

  • A graduation requirement for Mental Health Literacy passed the Senate unanimously and was killed in the House during the 2019 session.

  • Legislative efforts have begun to introduce a call for OSPI to devote 1.0 FTE in the development of a library of available curriculum and an assessment of how many OSPI Learning Standards each curriculum addresses. This FTE would also be charged with the development of a catalog of best practices for the implementation of various recommended MHL programs.

Get Involved:

An endorsement form is now available to individuals and organizations wishing to express support for this effort. You may also contact your state representative and/or senator to directly voice support for this recommendation by searching your district at

Please contact Todd Crooks at for information on how to get involved in our efforts to advance mental health in schools.

Todd Crooks
Aaron Lyon, PhD
Kelcey Schmitz

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