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Building Capacity of School Leadership

​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.

We need to create and Implement a Mental Health Leadership Professional Development program, including structured supports, for school principals and leaders. These supports may include targeted information about mental health problems and interventions as well as specific strategies for championing awareness of mental health issues and facilitating the adoption of effective mental health programming (including identification of relevant funding sources).



Development of Helping Educational Leaders Mobilize Evidence (HELM), a targeted set of professional development supports to aid principals and other education leaders in implementing evidence-based programs and frameworks that promote student social, emotional, and behavioral health.


  • Developed the first iteration of HELM via a set of advisory meetings

  • Presented, and received feedback on, the HELM training component at the Northwest Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Conference (winter/spring 2019)

  • Continuing HELM refinement in the 2019-2020 school year in Region 10 to ensure contextual appropriateness and feasibility

  • Second set of advisory meetings planned for spring 2020

Get Involved
Please contact Joanne J Buntain-Ricklefs 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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