Mental illness and suicide are closely connected. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “90% of young people who die of suicide have a mental health condition at the time of their death”. This demonstrates that suicide prevention programming should not be offered independently of broader mental health education.

Erika’s Lighthouse is a provider of Tier 1 universal depression education programs. Our lesson plans meet National Health Education Standards, which incorporate skills-based learning. Here are five reasons why schools should have mental health lessons and staff training:

1. Students spend most of their day and year in the school setting.

If schools normalize talking about mental health and feelings, students will feel comfortable sharing what they are experiencing. Having a safe space to discuss their feelings and emotions can help reduce their stress. Through our program, young people learn the skills to seek help through depression education that is teen-centered, factual and hopeful.

Erika’s Lighthouse programs are designed to not only teach students how to access valid information and services throughout their lives (National Health Education Standard #3), but provide them the opportunity to practice doing so. The ability of a student to know how to self-identify and seek help is key to a district’s suicide prevention and mental health education efforts.   

2. Staff knowledge of signs and symptoms is key

 Our free depression programs provide educators with youth-oriented materials that raise awareness, teach skills, encourage conversation, promote early identification and prevention, and help show teens that they are never alone. So many young people do not seek the help they need. 

When students can identify where to seek help in school, they feel safe and connected. The Erika’s Lighthouse programs utilize Self-Referral Cards, which offer students the opportunity to recognize that they might need to speak with someone and indicate that they’d like to be connected to a health service provider or mental health professional in the building.

3. We help schools to end the stigma around depression. 

We are committed to de-stigmatizing depression and providing hope for young people who have it. Our innovative, evidence-informed classroom programs do more than raise awareness; they provide a structured model for youth to thrive and survive. Making a meaningful difference in the lives of teens with depression defines all we do and who we are.

Students acquire the knowledge to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of depression, change attitudes regarding stigma around mental health challenges, and develop help-seeking skills. 

4. Our program-based lesson plans are authentic, empowering, and hopeful. 

Our classroom education programs are video-based featuring real teens sharing real emotions. We believe that every student can find someone that they can relate to and they can quickly understand that what they are feeling is nothing to be ashamed of and may be more common than they realize.

The adolescent-focused program videos are not scripted and the students are not actors; this allows for a peer-to-peer type approach that focuses on connecting with the students in the classroom. The diversity and representation demonstrated throughout the program allows young people the opportunity to connect with someone like them.

5. We are promoting inclusive school communities.

Erika’s Lighthouse Classroom Programs are inherently designed to improve school health and promote behaviors that improve or support health. We strive to help schools build inclusive communities and a climate that supports positive social and emotional development. We have classroom education for students from grades 4-12. Additionally, we offer:

  • Teen Empowerment Clubs & Affiliate Clubs
  • Family Engagement through a parent handbook, workshops & other resources
  • School Policy with Staff Training, Interventions, Policy Templates

The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model is an ideal framework for school communities to assess, plan and implement healthy school policies in a coordinated fashion. Erika’s Lighthouse supports this model in its attempt to create cultural change within schools to boost the physical and mental health of students.

By prioritizing the emotional well-being of students and providing mental health programming, schools can play a major role in destigmatizing mental health and help to Get Depression Out of the Dark

For more detailed information, please read one of our white papers: Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention: Implementing Effective Prevention Strategies or Integrating Mental Health into the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model for School Health

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