School Mental Health

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 112–124 | Cite as

Establishing and Maintaining Important Relationships in School Mental Health Research

  • Michael S. KellyEmail author
  • Judith Harrison
  • Elizabeth Schaughency
  • Amy Green
Original Paper


For this article, we investigated a complicated (and hypothesized, little-studied) area in school mental health research: namely how researchers establish and maintain successful relationships with key stakeholders in school settings. We identified key stakeholders that school mental health researchers have to consider when engaging in school-based research. Parents, youth, teachers, school leadership, school mental health professionals, district-level leaders, and community mental health partners are each specific stakeholders who may have differing (or even competing) agendas than that of the research team. In addition, professionals within these groups may have concerns or even suspicions about the researchers’ involvement in their school. To better understand these complex relational issues, we conducted a survey of leading school mental health researchers based on a convenience sample of researchers who attended a national school mental health research summit in October 2012. The survey data revealed that successful school mental health researchers have to continually work at creating and maintaining good relationships with school stakeholders, and consider these relationships crucial to conducting this research. In this article, we will describe barriers to recruitment and implementation and methods of overcoming the challenges identified in several case studies of school-based research in published articles and from our survey data. We present this information and propose a preliminary best practice model to developing and maintaining relationships with school professionals in SMH research.


School mental health research Stakeholders Survey Barriers to conducting school research 


  1. Botvin, G. J. (2004). Advancing prevention science and practice: Challenges, critical issues, and future directions. Prevention Science, 5(1), 69–72.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Burns, B. J., Hoagwood, K., & Mrazek, P. (1999). Effective treatment for mental disorders in children and adolescents. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 2, 199–254.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cappella, E., Frazier, S. L., Atkins, M. S., Schoenwald, S. K., & Glisson, C. (2008). Enhancing schools’ capacity to support children in poverty: An ecological model of school-based mental health services. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 35(5), 395–409.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cline, A., Schafer-Kalkhoff, T., Strickland, E., & Hamann, T. (2005). Recruitment strategies for the Princeton (Ohio) City School District Epidemiological Study. Journal of School Health, 75(5), 189–191.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Elias, M. J., Gager, P., & Leon, S. (1997). Spreading a warm blanket of prevention over all children: Guidelines for selecting substance abuse and related prevention curricula for use in the schools. Journal of Primary Prevention, 18, 41–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ellickson, P. L. (1994). Getting and keeping schools and kids for evaluation studies. Journal of Community Psychology (Monograph Series: CSAP Special Issue), pp. 102–116.Google Scholar
  7. Evans, S. W., Green, A. L., & Serpell, Z. N. (2005). Community participation in the treatment development process using community development teams. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34(4), 765–771.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fabiano, G. A., Chafouleas, S. M., Weist, M. D., Sumi, W. C., & Humphrey, N. (2014). Methodology considerations in school mental health research. School Mental Health. doi: 10.1007/s12310-013-9117-1.
  9. Farmer, E. M., Burns, F. J., Phillips, S. D., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2003). Pathways into and through mental health services for children and adolescents. Psychiatric Services, 54(1), 60–66.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Flay, B. R., & Collins, L. M. (2005). Historical review of school-based randomized trials for evaluating problem behavior prevention programs. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 599, 115–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flay, B. R., Biglan, A., Boruch, R. R., Castro, F. G., Gottfredson, D., Kellam, S., et al. (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness, and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151–175.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Forman, S. G., Shapiro, E. S., Codding, R. S., Gonzales, J. E., Reddy, L. A., Rosenfield, S. A., et al. (2013). Implementation science and school psychology. School Psychology Quarterly, 28, 77–100. doi: 10.1037/spq0000019.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Garrison, E. G., Roy, I. S., & Azar, V. (1999). Responding to the mental health needs of Lationo children and families through school-based services. Clinical Psychology Review, 19(2), 199–219.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hoagwood, K. E., Olin, S. S., Kerker, B. D., Kratochwill, T. R., Crowe, M., & Saka, N. (2007). Empirically based school interventions targeted at academic and mental health functioning. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 15, 66–92. doi: 10.1177/10634266070150020301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Horowitz, J. A., Vessey, J. A., Carlson, K. L., Bradley, J. F., Montoya, C., & McCullough, B. (2003). Conducting school-based focus groups: Lessons learned from the CATS project. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 19(5), 321–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jaycox, L. H., McCaffey, D. F., Ocampo, B. W., Shelley, G. A., Blake, S. M., Peterson, D. J., et al. (2006). Challenges in the evaluation and implementation of school-based prevention and intervention programs on sensitive topics. American Journal of Education, 27(3), 320–326. doi: 10.1177/1098214006291010.Google Scholar
  17. Jenson, M. M., Dieterich, W. A., Rinner, J. R., Washington, F., & Burgoyne, K. E. (2006). Implementation and design issues in group-randomized prevention trials: Lessons from the youth natters public schools study. Children and Schools, 28(4), 207–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A. J., & Lynn, N, (2006). School-based mental health: An empirical guide for decision-makers. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, The Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, Department of Child & Family Studies., Research and Training. Center for Children’s Mental Health. Retrieved from
  19. Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A. J., & Green, A. L. (2011). School-based mental health programs for students who have emotional disturbances: Academic and social-emotional outcomes. School Mental Health, 3(4), 191–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Langley, A. K., Nadeem, E., Kataoka, S. H., Stein, B. D., & Jaycox, L. H. (2010). Evidence-based mental health programs in schools: Barriers and facilitators of successful implementation. School Mental Health, 2, 105–113. doi: 10.1007/s12310-010-9038-1.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Misha, F., Scarcello, I., Pepler, D., & Wiener, J. (2005). Teachers’ understanding of bullying. Canadian Journal of Education, 28(4), 718–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mishna, F., Muskat, B., & Cook, C. (2012). Anticipating challenges: School-based social work intervention research. Children and Schools, 34(3), 135–144. doi: 10.1093/cs/cds002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Owens, J. S., & Murphy, C. E. (2004). Effectiveness research in the context of school-based mental health. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 7, 195–209. doi: 10.1007/s10567-004-6085-x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Payne, C. M. (2008). So much reform, so little change: The persistence of failure in urban schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.Google Scholar
  25. Powers, J. D. (2007). Successful entry and collaboration in school-based research: Tips from a school administrator. Children and Schools, 29(4), 247–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Slade, E. (2003). The relationship between school characteristics and the availability of mental health and related health services in middle and high schools in the United States. The journal of behavioral health services & research, 30(4), 382–392.Google Scholar
  27. Stephans, S. H., Weist, M., Kataoka, S., Adelsheim, S., & Mills, C. (2007). Transformation of children’s mental health services: The role of school mental health. Psychiatric Services (Washington, DC), 58(10), 1330–1338. doi: 10.1176/ Scholar
  28. Suldo, S. M., Gormley, M. J., DuPaul, G. J., & Anderson-Butcher, D. (2014). The impact of school mental health on student and school-level academic outcomes: Current status of the research and future directions. School Mental Health. doi:  10.1007/s12310-013-9116-2.
  29. Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 7(1), 27–56. doi: 10.1007/s11292-010-9109-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS;. (1999). Mental health: A report of the surgeon general executive summary. Rockville, MD: Author.Google Scholar
  31. Weist, M. D., Youngstrom, E. A., Stephan, S., Lever, N., Fowler, J., Taylor, L., et al. (2013). Challenges and ideas from a research program on high-quality, evidence-based practice in school mental health. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2013.833097.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael S. Kelly
    • 1
    Email author
  • Judith Harrison
    • 2
  • Elizabeth Schaughency
    • 3
  • Amy Green
    • 4
  1. 1.Loyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Center for Intervention Research in SchoolsOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  3. 3.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  4. 4.University of Southern FloridaTampaUSA

Personalised recommendations