Expert Instruction Podcast
Social Relationships
Social Skills
May 18, 2021

Ep. 9: Supporting School-Wide Mental Health

​In this episode, we talk with Susan Barrett and Dr. Brandi Simonsen about the little things schools can do to support mental health in their students, teachers, and larger community.

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​May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health America is using this May to build upon last year's "Tools 2 Thrive" campaign by sharing “practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency regardless of their personal situation." Susan Barrett and Dr. Brandi Simonsen from The Center on PBIS jumped right on top of the theme and started a social media campaign called #SchoolWellnessPBIS on Facebook and Twitter. With online spaces flooded with resources around how to support mental health in schools, their goal was to curate a list of tips and resources for incorporating positive mental health strategies in the classroom. After sharing a few of their strategies in this month's Teach by Design article, we wanted to invite them to the podcast to talk a little about the inspiration behind the campaign and why they feel it's so important to talk about mental health in schools right now.

Our conversation includes ideas you can implement today to support students, teachers, and create a community focused not just on self-care, but collective care. As Susan shared, "How do we take care of each other? How do we slow down and build a sense of community...and ecosystem where everybody is thriving?" Sounds like a goal we can all get behind.

  • Susan Barrett serves as a Director for the Center for Social Behavior Support (CSBS) at Old Dominion University and she is an Implementer Partner with The Center on PBIS. She assists with large-scale implementation of PBIS, partners with researchers to evaluate the impact of PBIS on students, school staff, and school communities, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Positive Behavior Supports. She also co-leads a PBIS and mental health expansion effort called the Interconnected Systems Framework. In her research, Susan explores topics ranging from large-scale adoption of PBIS, to mental health, to the adoption of evidence-based practices in schools.
  • Brandi Simonsen is a professor of Special Education with tenure in the Department of Educational Psychology at the Neag School of Education and the Co-Director of the Center for Behavioral Education and Research at the University of Connecticut. She is also the Co-Director of The Center on PBIS, a Co-Principal Investigator of the National Multi-Tiered System of Supports Research Network, a Senior Advisor to the National Center on Intensive Interventions (NCII), and an editorial board member for the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Her areas of interest and expertise include positive and proactive professional development supports for teachers, and applying PBIS in alternative education settings.

For more information about the resources mentioned in this episode, check out the following links:

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Megan Cave


Megan Cave

Megan Cave is a member of the PBISApps Marketing and Communication team. She is the writer behind the user manuals, scripted video tutorials, and news articles for PBISApps. She also writes a monthly article for Teach by Design and contributes to its accompanying Expert Instruction podcast episode. Megan has completed four half marathons – three of which happened unintentionally – and in all likelihood, will run another in the future.