As common sense as it may sound, one of the most simplistic, yet powerful statements heard at this years “Virtual Student Mental Health Summit,” came from keynote speaker Anthony McLean. “1 out 5 individuals will encounter a mental illness at some point in there lives, but did you know...that 5 out of 5 people currently have mental health?” I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about the concept along those blunt lines. Typically when we refer to mental health, the immediate stigma behind the words instantly carry weight. Depression, anxiety, stress, fear, lack of sleep, trouble at home or a danger to oneself. These are the common threads automatically generated when the topic of mental health arises. It really makes you ponder the question of “how many of us really see mental health as a universal part of everyday life, for every single person on the planet?”

It’s this stigma behind mental health that is perhaps the number one barrier that needs to be addressed before we can appropriately and adequately attack the issue at hand - and at this year’s 2021 Student Mental Health Summit, we set out to do just that. 

The SMHS once again brought together over 1,000 administrators, students, counselors, social workers, educators, school psychologists and more, to address the stigma behind mental health, and ultimately, learn what resources and available programming can be incorporated to support districts in this initiative. Spoiler alert. It turns out Michigan schools can offer each other quite a bit to tackle this important topic. 

Kicking off this year's summit, we welcomed back Kevin Fischer, Director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness - Michigan (NAMI-MI), for a deeper dive into specific state data trends for common mental illnesses - a critical first step in accessing the needs of your building. But perhaps an even more critical feature of our conference was held within the opening registration form. 

What makes Kevin’s presentation (and all other sessions for that matter) so powerful is that schools register in “teams” consisting of school educators and students alike. It’s within these team conversations that true growth and true progress can occur - leading to impactful programming decisions that are made together. As Kevin guided us through a statistical analysis of mental health trends, he encouraged participants to engage in pragmatic discussions on the prevalence of common illness and areas in which schools want to improve. Utilizing the discoveries from this opening session, our participants now had a blueprint to use in the selection of which keynote speakers and breakout sessions they wanted to attend. It also equipped participants with direction on which internal programs they could share out with other conference attendees. 

And wow, was there a ton of sharing this year!

In addition to the Parade of Idea sharing session that is linked above, this year's summit included three different concurrent keynote speakers, two summit-wide spotlight sessions (State Data Trends and “Do Stress Better!”)14 unique breakout sessions, our interactive School Assessment Survey tool and our Roadmap to Wellness monthly planning guide.    

Vested interest from dedicated stakeholders is how one goes from theory to application. And we are inspired and encouraged by the examples shared and the incredible participation from this year’s attendees. We look forward to continuing the work of our SMHS and providing schools the necessary tools to provide for their communities. The day this program is no longer necessary is the day we are all trying to achieve! We want to again thank our summit sponsors, Milk Means More, SET SEG, Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) and Michigan Virtual (MV) for helping create so many opportunities for schools across the state. 

Did you miss this year’s event? MASSP knows how busy calendars can get and how often important programs can slip by the wayside. If you are looking for access to the 2021 Virtual Student Mental Summit video library, contact Sarah LaLonde at for pricing information and digital access to this year's event. 

Written by Matt Alley, MASSP Associate Director of Student Services