Trauma-informed practices can provide meaningful support to those recovering from trauma, while preventative mental health practices can help reduce the risk of developing mental health conditions in the first place. Trauma-informed care is often provided to those who have experienced a traumatic event or multiple traumas and involves assessing for trauma symptoms and providing interventions designed to address needs that result from the trauma(1). In contrast, preventative mental health care focuses on providing strategies to protect and promote mental health prior to an individual developing mental health issues(2).
By recognizing the difference between trauma-informed and preventative practices, schools are developing a greater awareness of how trauma and mental health can affect individuals of all ages and the importance of addressing these issues.
The national average of students to school counselors is 408 students to 1 counselor. The American School Counselor Association recommends that ratio should be 250-to-1(3). The licensed school psychologist shortage is even more alarming with the suggested ratio being 500 students to 1 psychologist; however, the most recent data estimates report the ratio to be 1211-to-1(4), far exceeding the recommendation.
Schools are not going to be able to hire enough licensed personnel to cope with the current crisis and are using every resource available to empower everyone in the building to assist with promoting student mental health. Incorporating self-reflexive and mindful practices into the daily lives of students can provide them with tools to stay connected, build resilience, and cultivate positive self-awareness. By encouraging an environment of psychological safety and wellbeing, schools are empowering students to thrive and be their best selves.
School counselors and educators across the country are taking proactive steps to promote preventative mental health practices that protect students, both in and out of the classroom. From providing building-wide mental health training and resources to implementing evidence-based methods, schools are doing innovative work to empower young minds.
So how do Gaming Concepts courses fit? Gaming Concepts courses focus on the three mental health determinants of self-efficacy, life skills, and self-esteem. These determinants fall within the natural training and licensure of teachers. Recognizing that the vast majority of educators are not licensed mental health practitioners, Gaming Concepts courses do not stray from these three determinants. Mental Health Moments create the scaffold for this process by leveraging current classroom content (which stems from state and district standards) into discussions about the mental health determinants. The benefit of Mental Health Moments is that they flow directly from activities and discussions already embedded into the Gaming Concepts curriculum. This creates a natural and seamless transition for students and staff, allowing authentic and engaging moments of preventative mental health to occur.
Dr. Kristy Custer, Dr. Michael Russell and Dr. Chris Jensen, authors of Gaming Concepts, work with schools across the country to promote positive preventative mental health practices using the Gaming Concepts curriculum. A study completed in the Spring of 2022 demonstrates these promising results. (See image above.)
Let's keep the dialogue going to ensure that our students have the support and resources they need. Implementing Gaming Concepts in a school’s esports program, as an elective class or embedded into a CTE pathway, is the perfect way to provide preventative mental health and improvements to student self esteem.
Dr. Kristen Craft has served as a teacher, principal, and district administrator in public education for the past 27 years. As the 2021 Kansas Principal of the Year, she knows the power of leadership in getting the right support in place to connect all students to school. A champion of students, Dr. Craft joined the team at Generation Esports in January 2022 and is the Director of Education sales. When not providing information and resources to educators who are looking for ways to engage students through esports, she can be heard as the co-host on the Gaming Concepts Podcast.
1. US Department of Health and Human Services. Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4420.pdf
2. Mayo Clinic (2022). Resilience: Build skills to endure hardship. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/resilience/art-20046311
3. American School Counselor Association, "Student-to-School-Counselor Ration 2020-2021." https://www.schoolcounselor.org/getmedia/b9d453e7-7c45-4ef7-bf90-16f1f3cbab94/Ratios-21-22-Alpha.pdf
4. National Association of School Psychologists. Shortage of School Psychologists. https://www.nasponline.org/research-and-policy/policy-priorities/critical-policy-issues/shortage-of-school-psychologists