Youth in the United States are experiencing mental health concerns at alarming rates. Considering the nation's legacy of racism and growing recognition of the impact of social determinants of health on educational and mental health inequities, it is imperative to re-envision how we approach mental health screening in schools to center equity. A focus on mental health screening for the sole purpose of identifying individual at-risk students ignores key contextual considerations, is ineffective in addressing health and educational inequities, and has the potential to perpetuate oppressive practices in schools. Equity-focused mental health screening requires a shift from individual- and deficit-focused approaches to systems- and holistic-focused approaches that (a) identify strengths and stressors among individuals, groups, and communities; (b) dismantle structural forms of oppression; and (c) promote positive mental health outcomes for minoritized youth. Integrating recommendations from the educational equity literature and critical school mental health frameworks, this paper identifies core considerations for equitable school mental health screening and provides guiding principles for each phase of the screening process, from screening readiness to execution to follow up. To implement these recommendations and transform school-based mental health care, schools should (a) incorporate multiple perspectives; (b) prioritize student, family, and community voices; and (c) build collaborative partnerships to co-construct a vision for equitable school mental health.
- Mental health
- Universal screening