Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,853,070)
Mental Health & Wellbeing in Ohio Schools: Communication & Connection for Safe Schools
The Mental Health & Wellbeing in Ohio Schools project is designed to develop and deliver training to school personnel (teachers, counselors, principals, support staff) and caregivers (e.g., parents, guardians) in order to support school safety. Programming will improve adults’ readiness to recognize and respond to mental health issues in school settings. In addition, we will offer training and curriculum to support youth mental health and wellbeing. Specific programs we aim to offer under this award include Second Step curriculum, Mental Health First Aid, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and knitting circles. We have secured letters of support from school districts across Ohio, most of which are rural and/or high-poverty districts. Our project plan includes conducting on-site needs assessment with partner districts in project year one so we can understand which mental health issues are most pressing in the school sites (e.g., bullying, suicide, anxiety, substance abuse and misuse). Findings from these needs assessment visits will drive our delivery of evidence-based programs already available (e.g., Second Step, Mental Health First Aid). During project year two we will develop multiple virtual training simulations using the Mursion platform, which will allow adult participants to practice skills learned via our training workshops (e.g., practice having a conversation with a student about suicide risk). This project leverages preexisting partnerships and successful prior work under BJA’s STOP solicitation. The project plan includes support to train school personnel as Mental Health First Aid certified trainers; this support will allow Ohio districts to build capacity for ongoing mental health awareness and response due to the fact that school employees (e.g., school counselors, school social workers) will be able to provide ongoing mental health first aid training in their schools and communities. Finally, we are especially excited to include parents and caretakers in our programming (e.g., mental health first aid training, mindfulness meditation training, knitting circles) as a way to support mental health and wellbeing in schools. Taken together, each of these populations (students, school personnel, caregivers) and focus areas (mental health first aid, social-emotional learning, stress management, positive communications) are critically important for reducing violence (e.g., bullying, aggression) in schools.