Support Strategies for Meeting Your High School Students’ Mental Health Needs [Episode 102]

Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

As high school counselors with large caseloads, it can feel like a lot of pressure when it comes to trying to handle the mental health needs of students on top of everything else. There’s no flow chart to work through because each scenario is unique.
The good news is that counselors have the tools, strategies, and experiences to handle these situations. All you need are some new ideas to lean into providing mental health support to students without doing it all yourself.
In today’s episode, you’ll learn your primary role when addressing mental health needs, tips for finding outside support in mental health efforts, examining your mental health needs in tiers and providing the correct help, and how you can utilize guest experts in many ways.

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Calling on additional resources to support student’s mental health needs
  • How to evaluate your current program from a tiered approach
  • Ideas to implement the preventative approach to mental health needs
  • Utilizing guest speakers to provide knowledge to students, parents, and teachers
  • The importance of continuous learning for yourself as a professional counselor
  • When to create a list of outside resources to refer students to and when to use it

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

Hi, my friends, we’re coming off of Thanksgiving week. And I just want to say how thankful I am for you, my podcast listeners, you are my people who show up and show out week after week. If you’d like to show your support for this free podcast show, let me know that you’re listening and help others find the pod, then the best thing you can do is head over to your apple podcast app or the link in the show notes to leave your five star review.

I read each and every one of them and often read them on the air. Would you take a minute to go leave a review for high school counseling conversations? Again, I’m super grateful for each of you. And I don’t take for granted the time you dedicate listening to this podcast. So thank you so much.

With large caseload meeting mental health needs will always feel like a bear for high school counselors, just but the nature of what it is, it just feels like it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a more serious issue than a class schedule change. Mental health needs often lead to crisis moments or consulting with others or referring out to someone else. There’s also a lot of gray area that can come with serving our students mental and emotional needs.

I wish there was a flowchart if this, then this, and then you work your way through it. And poof, no stress on you to make the right call and what to do next. But unfortunately, that’s not how it works. There’s not one of those flowcharts This is why you get paid the big bucks. Kidding. But really, this is why you are equipped with the tools, strategies and experiences that you are because others certainly don’t know what to do in these situations.

You’re trained to remain calm, ask questions, seek clarity, provide short term counseling and connect to the appropriate resources. Those are all things in your scope that you most definitely can do. Maybe you just need to be reminded that you are an expert in these things, you’ve got this, I want to flesh out some thoughts for you in this week’s episode and some ideas that you can lean into or uncover for more mental health supports for your students in whatever high school setting you find yourself in. Let’s get into Episode 102.

You got into this profession to make a difference in your students lives, but you’re spread thin by all the things that keep getting added to your to do list. I can’t create more hours in the day, but I can invite you into my counselorclique where you’ll finally catch your breath. Come with me as we unpack creative ideas and effective strategies that will help you be the counselor who leaves a lifelong impact on your students. I’m Lauren Tingle your high school counseling hype girl here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job.

First, as we’re talking about finding supports to use in our mental health efforts in our schools, I want you to think about calling on your additional resources. Hopefully you have other people that you’re connected to, whether it’s outside of your tiny little department that you can reach out to you and connect with, whether that’s your school social worker, the school mental health worker, a school psychologist, community outreach partnerships, middle school partners, dropout prevention specialists, attendance clerks, truancy officers, any of these people. They are pivotal in getting you resources to connect students to more mental health resources.

This is a reminder, you don’t have to do this by yourself. So your social worker could be working with your parenting or your pregnant teenagers, your social worker could be providing transportation for parents to come to meetings at your school, your resource officer could be transporting your student to the emergency room when a parent can’t come to get the student at school. But they’ve given permission to allow you to do so.

The resource officer or truancy officer or dropout prevention specialist can go to the house of the student who is suffering from some mental health issues that maybe you can’t leave your post during the school day. Or maybe it’s not safe for you to go to their house where those people are trained in that area. And they can do that. A school psychologist or your mental health counselor can do testing or more intensive therapy services with your students.

You are not supposed to do all of these things. You are like the nucleus or the hub of the school who gets that student connected in all of those other places. So remember, you’re not the only one who knows about mental health supports in a school and you’re not the only person who is supposed to support a student’s mental health aides in your school building.

Next, I want you to think about how you’re serving your students in terms of triaging them with their needs. When you’re diving into mental health needs in your school, it can feel extremely overwhelming. Or you might be thinking if I asked this question, is it going to open up this whole can of worms somewhere else? Let’s reexamine your program from a tiered approach and think how can we do this effectively and efficiently?

First, I want you to quickly list out the interventions that you’re already doing just like right off the top of your head, think about tier one, tier two and tier three in your school. Like where are you serving all of your students? Where are you serving some of your students? And where are you serving individual students?

Are there certain programs or classroom lessons that are already addressing mental health needs, with what you have going on in your school right now? And then where are the gaps? Where are you realizing, Wait, we don’t have anything in place to support students socially and emotionally in these areas. Maybe you realize you are getting into classrooms a lot. But those are all academic lessons.

How can we switch gears and get some social emotional lessons in there? Or if we’re running into roadblocks of making that happen? Where do you need to advocate and share some data with some administrators to say, Hey, this is important that we’re getting in the classroom. And we’re doing this for students, because we said we’re having a lot of crises, walking in the door, and we need to have some preventative education for our students before that happens.

If you heard me say tier one, tier two, tier three, and that feels very new to you, or overwhelming and you don’t know what that means, or where to start with MTSS, check out episode 77 of the podcast where I talk about multi tiered systems of support and how it actually can be really beneficial for high school counselors in particular, or along those lines.

I’ll also link to the school counselors guide to multi tiered systems of support. If you’re more of a reader, and you want to read about those things in high school setting. We want to just have a preventative angle to our mental health needs and supports in our school. And we don’t want to be responding to crises all the time.

Because that’s how we burn out as high school counselors, I would say the mental health needs are the things that at least for me, personally would drag me under the bus pull me along, as I’m barely emotionally hanging on. Those were some of my hardest days when I was dealing with the heaviness of the mental health needs in the school.

Another support, I want you to consider either putting in place or examining how it’s going in your school right now is the programs in your school, maybe if you have the capacity to take on a new program, and you are finding that it’s a need in your school, consider putting something on the calendar for May, which is mental health awareness month. So this is coming out before mental health awareness month to give you plenty of time to think about that.

Maybe it’s a mental health fair, where you bring in all of those other people I mentioned as supports in and around your school, the social worker, the psychologist, different community outreach people, bring them all in in one place for a mental health fair. I think that can be great for students, teachers, administrators, and maybe even a session or a walkthrough for parents to come, grab information, grab pamphlets, talk to other experts in these fields.

I’ll link you to a blog post on a mindfulness day that I hosted at my school one time, it was so fun. And we could do a whole episode on this. And I will link you back to Tylee’s wellness Day episode 99, where you can kind of get a podcast episode on something similar to my blog post episode about my mindfulness day, whether you’re a reader or listener, both of these were put in place for students to be able to understand some positive coping skills for their mental health needs.

Now I will say big endeavor, if you are willing to put this on your calendar, maybe for the spring and try it once. You might find yourself wanting to do it two times a year because your students are gonna love it so much. If you find yourself in the trenches, doing so much academic counseling or letters of recommendation for college, and you just want to get something more, feel good, something tangible, where you are seeing students learn and grow and apply what they’re learning to their every day.

I think you will love putting together a mindfulness day or a wellness day for your students. It just lit me up in terms of making me excited about my job because I got to see students doing things that seemed very simple, but adding things to their social emotional toolkit that they did not have already. And like I just see them really act like kids as they were learning some positive coping skills in the safety of the school building that they could then take with them outside of the school building to continue learning and growing with.

Again, if you have the capacity to take on something new, or at least bring it in your school building, I’d encourage you to look into a Nami club. The National Alliance of Mental Illness puts together some information to start a club in your school for social emotional wellness and mental health supports now, they will give you a lot of information for that they will often also provide a volunteer for that.

But you know, in a school, you probably have to have somebody be the club’s sponsor. If you have the capacity to do that, or another one of your co counselors does, this might be something worth looking into, or getting some students on board to make it a student run club.

I don’t want you to forget the impact that guest speakers could have on your school counseling program and on your students in your school. This is another mental health support that often goes forgotten about because it does take some scheduling on your part. But think about it. If you could bring in other people, you’d be multiplying your time.

But think about some of the classes that you could bring people into PE, psychology, a health careers class, a health science class, there are probably places in the school already that really lend themselves to guest speakers that it fits into their standards. And those teachers would be willing to let somebody come in and speak to students about mental health supports, you could bring in guest speakers for parent events.

So Nami, which I already mentioned, would be a great organization. And they often have local chapters in your area, check out different grief organizations or funeral homes. I know that might sound a little weird, but different places that deal with grief in the community, bring those in for parents or students to learn about grief. There are so many misunderstandings about grief cycles, and what is appropriate grieving. And when I should be done grieving that we need to dispel some of those myths and bring in some guest speakers to help students get through that.

All of the people that I mentioned before, who are partners with your school, or who are in your school already, they can be guest speakers in classes or with parents. I remember one of our most successful coffee with the counselors where we brought in guest speakers for parents was with our very own licensed mental health counselor at our school. You know, if parents don’t have experience with that, or know that it’s even a resource in the school, they’re definitely not reaching out and finding out some information about common teen mental health issues that are going on.

So we brought that person who was already in the school to that meeting that was happening at the school. And it was extremely informative. Parents were very engaged, asked a lot of great questions. And that’s one that we did over and over again, because she was such a wealth of knowledge. And you know, as a school counselor, we know a lot of that same stuff. But this was a way to multiply our time of school counselors and also just bring in somebody else who was an expert in their field, who was very willing to share a presentation about this.

She probably actually already had the presentation made, and having her come in in front of parents was just one more way to expose our school community to some new mental health supports that maybe they didn’t know existed.

I want to introduce you to a new way to support your students that will save you tons of time this college application season. College vines AI letter recommendation tool is about to change the game for the way you get your students letters completed. College vine has been around for 10 years, so they’ve had some time to perfect this tool. What makes it different from other AI generators.

This one is programmed specifically with high school counselors in mind and knows the questions to ask you to get the right voice, the desired length of the recommendation letter, and the perfect personal touches to match your writing style. And the best part, it’s free, I promise, you’re going to love experimenting with the way you write letters of recommendation from here on out, head over to To get started with this free tool today.

With Parents, you could also do a book club or just give book suggestions for those who want additional resources and want to learn. If your school puts out a newsletter, you could put those books in that newsletter or give some suggested listening on some podcast for those who want to listen.

Now that I’m a parent of an elementary school student, I read all of those things. I look for the resources that they’re giving out. I know not all parents are engaged or are looking for those additional resources, but it will hit the right parents at the right time who are looking for mental health supports for their teens.

If you can get a guest speaker to come in at a staff meeting or an in service day where they’re not going to go out of their way to go find this information in the community. This can be a really good use of your teachers time. You know, no one wants to sit in a meeting that’s a waste of time about things they already know.

But I find that teachers are dealing with those mental health issues in the classroom, and they don’t have time to sort through it with their students. They wish that they did. They wish they had the expertise and the time to do that with their students or to care for them in that way, but they just don’t.

So maybe a guest speaker can help your teachers figure out when it’s appropriate to seek help or what are the warning signs that they should be looking for in their students. So that they can get their students help and connect them to the right one mental health resources.

When you’ve got lots of people with eyes on students in the school building, the more you have, the better. Your students are just going to be better served in terms of their social, emotional and their mental wellness, if you’ve got more adults who know the warning signs to look for.

Now, I mentioned this already, but I want you to think about some places in your school where you can put out information that’s already going out there. Like I’m not asking you to create an entirely new newsletter to send out to parents or students or people in the community.

But if your principal already does a newsletter, what tips or information can you put in there that will help parents and students be more aware of the mental health supports around them in their community? Or their school announcements? Can you give students some sort of coping skill or mental health tip once a week or once a month or around National School Counseling Week or mental health awareness month.

Like pick a time and celebrate that and write a few quick announcements that have to do with mental health and students are listening to these things. So the announcements are a great place to insert some of those.

Now, what should you say in those announcements or in those newsletters, all sorts of things, that things that you’re doing in the classroom, repurpose that, the things that you’re doing in small groups, repurpose those things. Giveaway tips for healthy habits, like sleeping, eating coping skills, talk about healthy relationships with friends, or healthy romantic relationships, and what those could look like in the high school setting.

Talk about physical exercise, general mental health, education and facts. I know that sounds really simple to us, we think about that. We read about that all the time as counselors, but I hate to break it do the regular Joe Schmo is not doing research about mental health tips or care.

So give them facts, give them tips, think about just how much is going on in your high school setting and what you’re talking to kids individually about, and share tips for the general public about those.

So tips for transitioning new family dynamics, new relationship dynamics, if you’re new to a school, just general life changes, students need help with all of those things. If you have results from a needs assessment, go back and look at those and use those as inspiration for what tips to share with your students. All of those things turn into mental health issues, or possibly crisis situations if they’re not addressed, or they get to the extreme.

The last place I want you to think about learning about mental health supports is just continuous learning for yourself as a professional. So cultural awareness, how attuned are you to the mental health needs of just the different cultures that are in your school building. I know that you want to create a safe environment in your office, first and foremost, no matter what the culture, or the feeling at your school is around cultural awareness.

You have a responsibility, and you have an opportunity to do that right in your office. You are already creating a safe environment there, I’m sure of it. But I want you to make sure that you are letting others know about that. And so if you are realizing, hey, I need to get better at that. And what should I be doing about that?

Let’s do some professional development or some just learning about what that looks like for the cultures that are in your school. Because that’s different for everybody. The culture is in your school, the dynamics in your community, the political climate around where you are, that’s going to be different. So let’s challenge ourselves to learn and grow in that area so that we can better serve our students.

Are there community partnerships out there in your city and in your county that maybe you don’t know about as well? Or you’ve heard mentioned? Or maybe you heard a blurb of it on the news? Where can you go out and engage with those community partners, and potentially get them to be in your school building, doing a mental health fair or being a guest speaker or speaking to parents.

There are so many community partners out there who are just waiting to get their foot in a school and you get to be the connecting piece. So if that means you get to spend an afternoon, going to that place to see in person what their resources are, do it, put it on your calendar. And imagine it would be hard for a principal to argue that your little field trip off campus to go learn about resources for your students would not be worthwhile.

I kind of mentioned this in terms of your school building. But I want you to be able to understand the community you live in and do some research and figure out who your family is trust and where they gravitate to and where they spend their time. Is that a community center? That is the hub of where people are when they’re not in school? Or maybe it’s the church and there’s a pastor that has a lot of influence in your area.

How can you connect with them to help get your families and students the right mental health supports that they need? Look at the data that is right inside of your school already. I know data is not always super exciting. So maybe you need to put a date on your calendar to do this, and then check in with your students, your families, your teachers for what they need.

If you haven’t done a needs assessment in a while, it’s always a great time to do it, I was gonna say this would be a great time to do it. Now, it’s always a great time if you don’t have that information right now. So find out what the pressing mental health issues are. So that you can meet those needs of your specific population, what your school is going to need is going to be different from the school even in the same district as you have what they might need.

Push yourself as a professional to engage in webinars or ask a you trainings or join the click collaborative, show up to your state and national conferences and read on your own time, there are lots of opportunities for you, just as a professional, you as a school counselor to continue learning and growing in your knowledge about the mental health supports in your area and worldwide even.

Maybe, if mental health is kind of something that makes you a little nervous of how am I going to handle this in a situation. I want you to look into the Mental Health First Aid training, or one that I did that was so good, was the Prepare crisis intervention training. And I’ll look at those links. And I’ll put them in the show notes.

Now, I will say both those probably cost money, or maybe you can find some sort of grant or something for them. But my district one time brought in the Prepare crisis intervention training. And some of that is more, you know, actual crises happening school wide or district wide and what you’re going to do about them.

But some of the situations in there really prepared me for handling mental health crises on my own campus. It gave me a framework, and it gave me some examples of scenarios that might happen in my school or with my students to think through. But also to do that in a really safe environment with other school counselors. As we chatted through what we would do, what would our protocol be? What do we need to put in our school in place that we don’t have right now when it comes to mental health.

And the last kind of bullet point that I want to mention in the continuous learning for yourself as a professional is just continuing to build your confidence on when it’s time to refer out and who to refer to. So if you keep a list in your drawer, or you have a Google Doc that you can just print out easily for students or parents.

I want you to go back and check out that list. After you’ve done some of those little mini field trips off campus or that you’ve done the research to figure out who the community partners are in your area, add to that list, refresh your list, and then be confident on when it’s time to refer out because this is not in your zone of genius.

That’s okay, you don’t have to know everything. I think a really cool part of being a high school counselor is being a connecting piece to other resources. Because there are so many people who are doing the same thing in just their own little sphere. We’re all caring for students, we’re all serving families. But we all have different specialties in doing that.

So update your list on who you’re going to refer out to for certain things, and be confident when it’s time to refer out and when you cannot handle these mental health crises or mental health needs of your students at this point.

I hope all of these ideas gave you some stones to uncover to places that you could turn and look to in your school to utilize some mental health resources. Or maybe I gave you some new ideas to turn to so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to mental health services.

I hope this was the pep talk that you needed to be sure that you are on the right track for providing your high school students with the right resources to keep them mentally healthy since that’s one of the big components of being a high school counselor. Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. And I will see you here same time, same place next week.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of high school counseling conversations. All the links I talked about today can be found in the shownotes and also at counselorclique/podcast. Be sure to hit follow wherever you listen to your podcasts so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram. Feel free to send me a DM @counselorclique. I’ll see you next week.


Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

Like what you’re hearing? Follow and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It helps other high school counseling friends find it!

Can’t contain your excitement? Share the pod! Tell a friend! Your word-of-mouth referrals mean the world to me!


Share it:


You might also like...