Here at the Be a Lifeline blog, we couldn’t be more excited that today is May 1st. Yes, you’re right, that means we’re one month closer to summer, which is absolutely a reason to celebrate. However, we’re most excited because today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Month! And, we could think of no better way to kick off the month than with a post from Mark Lanning, chock-full of incredible resources for behavioral health in schools! PS – another cute dog photo coming your way…
What an exciting and historic time to be involved in behavioral health reform in schools! In my short time as an educator, I have seen a large paradigm shift towards whole-child education, prevention efforts, and increased mental health literacy in the general population. My name is Mark Lanning and I am the School Based Specialist with Mental Health Frist Aid Colorado. I will be writing blog posts on the intersection of behavioral health and schools. For more on my bio, you can click here. I wanted to share with you an overview of a few statewide initiatives to inspire us all that hope and recovery are possible. (And not the scary and dangerous messages portrayed by many media outlets).
But, first, Tony last week inspired me to share an adorable picture of my dog. He is a greyhound and gets cold in the winter. As you can tell, he LOVES his hat.
Colorado has received many prominent grants to address behavioral health needs in schools. Thanks to a partnership with the Office of Behavioral Health, districts are able to receive school based therapists to arrange counseling sessions with students at their local school. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has initiated the School Health Professionals Grant to drive marijuana tax revenue towards substance-use prevention and mental health services in districts and charter schools. Mental Health First Aid Colorado has partnered with CDE to guide comprehensive behavioral health reform in schools through the SAMHSA grant Project AWARE. Over the past few years, many school districts in Colorado have added mental health coordinators to support conversations between schools, districts, and community resources.
Coloradoans have been grateful to see the formation of many agencies as well to address behavioral health needs of students. In 2008, the Colorado School Safety Resource Center (CSSRC) was founded to support safe and healthy school populations. The CSSRC serves as the leading expert in suicide and risk assessment, positive behavioral health supports, and classroom level best practices for assisting students with mental health challenges. Although the staff focuses on school threats, they are quick to recognize that the vast majority of students with mental health diagnosis are not a threat to school safety. Safe2Tell officially became a State Agency last year. Safe2Tell is an anonymous reporting system in schools whose most common submittal is behavioral health concerns. Recently, we also saw the launch of the Colorado Crisis Services.
Coloradoans are also blessed to have many wonderful in-state nonprofits supporting behavioral health reform. While we at MHFACO love the YMHFA curriculum, we recognize that we are one piece of the puzzle towards holistic student health. Rather than compete with other programs, we believe that only by collaboration will we achieve our common goals. While there are numerous programs, I wanted to highlight a few that have resonated with me recently thanks to their innovation and grassroots efforts. Calming Kids teaches an innovative and evidence-based bully-proofing program for pre-school through high-school aged students. CK blends yoga with non-violent communication techniques to develop an attitude of non-violence towards self, towards peers, and towards the community. The Carson J. Spencer engages local schools and youth groups in designing a social enterprise to address the root causes of suicide. Called The Fire Within, the students learn tangible business and peer support skills. Lastly, the Colorado Education Initiative created the Behavioral Health Framework to support all 3 Response to Intervention Tiers for students with mental health challenges.
Sometimes when we are interacting with students with mental health diagnosis, it can be difficult to see the big picture or all of the support you have behind the scenes. While our system is far from perfect, I am confident we are taking major steps to support whole student wellness.