Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Education Program


Lauren Yoshizawa


Adolescent mental health has been an increasingly important topic of conversation in education policy as the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national state of emergency for child and adolescent mental health in 2021. In this two phase study I work to understand the landscape of what mental health education looks like in the United States through interviews with policymakers, curriculum developers, and classroom instructors as well as literature research. I investigated what mental health education looks like in practice and how it is experienced by middle school students through classroom observation, student surveys, and curriculum analysis. In my research I found a disconnect between policymakers implementing new mandates and funding towards mental health education, and then instructors struggling to find the money, implement the curriculum, and teach mental health using a shared language due to lack of staff education and support and school overwhelm. I found that middle school students specifically are in need of mental health education due to their developmental age, schools being in crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on schools. Additionally, teachers and curriculum developers have different ways of teaching new policies which span deficit and asset based approaches. These findings implicate the importance of having a shared common language around mental health and how to teach it as well as communication between policymakers and classroom instructors regarding what type of reform can be implemented successfully during this time.


Mental Health Education, Social-Emotional Learning, Mental Health Literacy, Middle School, Adolescent Mental Health