As we enjoy the holidays, we have more time at home with our children to observe their mental and physical activities. Some families celebrate Halloween, and schools close for Thanksgiving and Christmas or Winter Break. During these holiday breaks our homes and communities experience more of student’s antisocial behavior.

Student’s disruptive behaviors in the home, school, and community may include temper tantrums, cursing, bullying, fighting, disrespect for authority, conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity, depression, and other behaviors that severely disrupt student’s daily functioning and adversely affect their academic, social, and emotional learning.

Our happy holidays can be painful for students with social, emotional, and physical issues that are increased by memories of negative experiences every day and especially during the holidays.

Schools, families, and community organizations can develop partnerships by implementing prevention and intervention activities that address student’s social and emotional behaviors.

The Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003 (CMH Public Act 93-0495), which was signed by Governor Blagojevich on August 8, 2003, mandates that schools provide policies and procedures to meet the social and emotional needs of all students. The CMH Act requires the development of a coordinated system of mental health services for students ages 0-18 and youth ages 19-21. The Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP) developed a preliminary strategic plan on September 30, 2004 that provides short and long term recommendations for prevention, intervention, and treatment. A partnership between the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Department of Public Aid (DPA) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has developed a statewide system of screening, assessment and support services (SASS) for children, including adolescents, experiencing a mental health crisis.

The ICMHP recommendations include: develop prevention, intervention, and treatment policies and programs; invest sufficient resources; provide qualified professionals; increase public education; share accountability between state agencies; and invest in research.

You can work with the Proviso Township and Forest Park public schools to ensure that the ICMHP recommendations are implemented to meet the needs of our students. Parents/guardians and community organizations must work with the elementary and high schools to identify student issues and provide early prevention and intervention activities.

Ask your schools about the policies, procedures, programs, and ways families can assist to improve classroom management, student discipline, school safety, and school climate and culture. Students must demonstrate positive behavior in home, school, and the community. Effective strategies help students manage emotions, express care for others, make responsible decisions, create positive relationships, and effectively handle challenging situations. Effective school programs focus on positive youth development, promoting health and wellness, prevention of problem behaviors, and active student engagement in learning.

National, state, and local organizations such as the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority and seven others are in the forefront of developing the coordinated system of mental health services for students in Illinois.

The Proviso Township Mental Health Board is an organization that provides services addressing children and community mental health needs.

Let’s help students develop healthy minds, bodies, and souls with prevention and early intervention to reduce costs for mental health, grade retention, special education services, and welfare supports. We must ensure student success through the collaborative and coordinated systems of child welfare, public health, education, human services, and juvenile justice.

If you would like to share healthy strategies, create an information group, conduct parent education workshops, support children’s and community mental health, or suggest ways you can be involved, call 708-771-4273 to express your views.

Every day can be a happy holiday to share love, respect, and care with students, schools, families, and communities when we unite with enormous hope and committed action for healthy minds, bodies, and souls for us all.