CDC guide on promoting student well-being

Focusing on six school-based strategies that have proven to help prevent mental health issues in young people and promote well-being, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released “Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being in Schools: An Action Guide for School and District Leaders” in December.

The resource can serve as a starting point for local educational agencies as they strive to support students or help build out existing offerings.

The guide details individual strategies along with examples of how to put them into action and equity considerations. Strategies include increasing students’ mental health literacy; promoting mindfulness; promoting social-emotional and behavioral learning; enhancing connectedness among students, staff and families; providing psychosocial skills training and cognitive behavioral interventions; and supporting staff well-being.

“When implementing strategies related to school-based promotion of mental health and well-being, it is important to consider existing educational practices that may guide decision-making in the school district,” the guide states. “It is also important to consider the school and community context, including availability of resources, needs of students, and capacity of staff.”

Other considerations for school leaders outlined by the CDC include use of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework and comprehensive assessment tools, access to mental health treatment and how LEAs can help students/families overcome barriers, the diverse needs of students and identifying the role of all school staff in supporting students.

“As mental health concerns for young people have increased in recent years, schools need approaches that are evidence based and feasible. The strategies and approaches presented in this package are best centered in the MTSS that many schools already use to assess and address students’ needs,” according to the CDC. “Centering equity in implementation of these strategies and approaches is also critical for prioritizing the unique experiences of students and staff who are disproportionally affected by poor mental health outcomes. School leaders can use this resource to reflect on current practices in their district and schools and explore opportunities for improvement and expansion of strategies to effectively and equitably support student mental health.”


For each strategy below, the corresponding approaches are covered in the guide:

  • Increase students’ mental health literacy
    • Deliver classroom-based mental health education curricula
    • Use peer-led modeling programs
  • Promote mindfulness
    • Deliver classroom-based mindfulness education
    • Dedicate time for students to independently practice mindfulness
    • Offer small group mindfulness activities
  • Promote social-emotional and behavioral learning
    • Provide classroom instruction focused on building social skills and emotional development
    • Offer targeted education focused on teaching social skills and emotional development
  • Enhance connectedness among students, staff and families
    • Provide relationship-building programs
  • Provide psychosocial skills training and cognitive behavioral interventions
    • Promote acceptance and commitment to change
    • Provide cognitive behavioral interventions
    • Engage students in coping skills training groups
  • Support staff well-being
    • Offer mindfulness-based training programs
    • Provide therapeutic resources

Additionally, the implementation of restorative practices and internal structures of social support, like gender and sexuality alliances, are detailed as emerging evidence shows the approaches for promoting nurturing, welcoming school environments have a positive impact on student mental health and well-being.