JED and AASA Begin Districtwide Approach to Bring Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to School Districts

A group of students sit in a brightly-lit classroom looking toward their teacher at the front of the room.

By Kim Greene

The Jed Foundation (JED) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, have begun their work with pre-K–12 school districts across the country to implement districtwide systems that support the emotional well-being of all students.

The District Comprehensive Approach (DCA) is a multiyear program that provides school districts with an evidence-based framework — combined with expert support, best practices, and data-driven guidance — to protect mental health and prevent suicide for millions of students. 

The initiative combines JED’s decades of nationwide experience protecting emotional health and preventing suicide for more than 1,200 high schools, colleges, and universities with AASA’s 150-year commitment to serving public education and school district leadership. 

Sixteen districts from across the country have been invited to take part in the inaugural pilot of the program. They include districts in rural, suburban, and urban communities serving racially, ethnically, linguistically, and economically diverse populations of students. In its first year, the DCA will reach over 370,000 students in 503 schools across 14 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Districts are currently engaged in the onboarding process, which includes identifying staff members to lead and support the work in schools. Districts will also share information about the program with their communities, complete self-assessments, and meet their JED School Mental Health Specialist who will guide their district’s work. 

During the program, districts will have access to expertise at both JED and AASA to fully support them in making meaningful, sustainable, and measurable improvements in student well-being in their districts. 

Districts will also have several opportunities to connect with each other and learn from peers. This month, the districts came together to learn about JED’s Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for High Schools, which serves as the basis for the program. They focused on the approach’s seven domains: 

  • Promoting social connectedness and a positive school climate
  • Encouraging help-seeking behaviors
  • Improving recognition and response to signs of distress and risk
  • Ensuring student access to mental health treatment
  • Establishing and following crisis management procedures
  • Promoting means safety
  • Developing life skills

Several districts are engaging in the DCA, in part, to enhance their current mental health initiatives. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), in Maryland, is one of them. “MCPS is using this opportunity with JED and AASA to enhance our mental health services to students while innovating to find new ways to support all students’ well-being,” said Hope McGuire, program manager in the district’s Department of Student Engagement, Behavioral Health, and Academics.

The first year of the District Comprehensive Approach marks just the beginning of JED’s work with school districts. Check back to learn about how JED will help more districts protect student emotional health and prevent suicide.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.