As the new school year begins, teachers at many schools across the country are adding a new component to their routines: a mental health check-in with their students. The idea is to open up conversations around how kids are feeling emotionally, and to connect them to help before issues escalate to a crisis.
“I’ve been really impressed with the proactive position that school systems have taken,” says Dr. Tami Benton, psychiatrist-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the president-elect of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Many schools that Benton works with are spending less time focusing on academics in the first few weeks of the school year, and more time checking in on kids’ mental health and school readiness. “They’re actually starting to develop their own approaches to assessing the social-emotional development status of kids,” she says.
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