Massachusetts:Nine school districts to focus on mental health issues

Sept 22, 2017, Wicked Local, Hudson: Schools bring new focus to social-emotional learning Nine Massachusetts school districts are partnering in a new program to help children build the social and emotional base they need to develop skills such as perseverance, empathy, self-awareness and healthy decision-making. The Excellence through Social-Emotional Learning, or exSEL, network, is intended to help schools better teach students to appropriately navigate social interactions, understand their emotions and be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses in positive ways. Developing children’s social and emotional sides can set them up for future success in life and help them deal with issues such as depression, anxiety and bullying, program participants say. … Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said one purpose of the program is to help educators find the right balance between focusing on academics and focusing on children’s other needs. This came as many school districts began noticing changing demographics and an increased prevalence of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues among students. ... “What prompted much of this was changes we were observing in schools with respect to how young people were feeling about themselves and managing themselves,” Scott said. “Some of this was the way in which kids see themselves in their academic world, their social world and their emotional-mental-health world.”… Superintendent of Brockton Public Schools Kathleen A. Smith said joining the exSEL Network will expand upon existing programs that focus on mental health. “We are happy to be a part of the exSEL Network and are eager to share the work we have done regarding trauma-sensitive schools,” Smith said. “We are also just as eager to learn what our partner districts are doing with respect to this most critical topic and our hope is we could develop practices that can become models informing policymakers’ decisions at the state level.”