After a year like no other, students and faculty are getting ready to go back to school. We understand that the end of the summer and the start of the school year can be stressful for students under normal conditions, and this year may add additional challenges. We want to be sure your buildings are ready to offer support. It is imperative, perhaps more than ever, for students to know about the importance of depression education, good mental health, and where to seek help if they are concerned about themselves or a friend.

How to incorporate depression awareness/suicide prevention education in your school going forward

It is important to understand that everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been a collective adverse childhood experience (ACE) that has impacted every student in some way.

This matters because adverse childhood experiences can have lasting, negative effects on health, well-being, and even opportunity later in life. This means that we can not afford to passively sit back and ignore the social-emotional (SEL) needs of our students. We must have a sense of urgency now, to adequately respond AND be proactive, in addressing the needs of our students, their families, as well as our teachers, administrators, and other school-based staff. From Why Every School Must Have a Social Emotional Learning Plan Prior to Reopening,

  • Focus on the importance of good mental health. Know it is OK for students to say that they aren’t feeling well.
  • Log in to the Erika’s Lighthouse Resource Portal to view all documents and lessons mentioned in this guide.
  • Check out our many resources that are offered in both English and Spanish.
  • Explore the classroom education programs, which meet some of the National Health Education Standards (NHES). All three levels are video-based and provide facilitator guides and student work materials.
  • Level I: We All Have Mental Health is built for grades 4-6; Level II: Depression Awareness is designed for grades 5-9; Level III: Depression Education & Suicide Awareness can be used for grades 8-12.
  • Communicate and collaborate with school mental health staff to ensure appropriate support will be ready and available.
  • Consider utilizing the Beacon of Hope signs around the school to build a supportive and inclusive network of Trusted Adults as everyone returns to the building.
  • Read the Best Practices for Implementation document and review classroom lessons.
  • Notify parents/guardians/family members that this topic will be taught.
  • We recommend starting with a pre-test one day prior to the program. This can be accessed in each program level facilitator guide and the Resource Portal. A post-test is available to use after the third lesson in all levels.
  • When you show the video, allow students to process what they see and be sure to allow time for class discussions and activities.
  • For elementary students, allow them to explore their feelings and incorporate the icebreaker recommended.
  • For middle schoolers, it will be important to allow them to reconnect with their peers; the lessons in which they pair up with classmates and role play will allow them to interact with each other.
  • For high school students, they might want to be able to show what they have learned about themselves during the pandemic, and lessons 2, 3, and 4 will allow them to creatively explore and express.
  • Use the Mindfulness Activity with students and other worksheets available on the Resource Portal.
  • Utilize the self-referral cards to allow students to use their voices to ask for help. Note: Do not hand them out on a Friday or at the end of the school day in case a student needs immediate help.
Incorporate the Whole School and Community

This reentry into the school year will be like none other. Be sure there is regular communication among staff members and administrators to help make sure the school will be particularly supportive and ready to help students and families.

  • Consider outlining a plan for direct communication with students and parents outside of regular class time; check-ins might be greatly appreciated
  • Engage Students with: Positive Coping Mechanisms worksheet, Managing Stress worksheet, Jeopardy Game, Performance Assessment for high school students (All found on the Resource Portal)
  • Engage Families with: Letter to Parents (English and Spanish), Depression Discussion Guide, Common Vocabulary, Parent Handbook on Childhood & Teen Depression
Ongoing Support
  • Continue to collaborate with the school mental health team to ensure they are involved with the implementation of any mental health education lessons and are prepared to support the ongoing needs of students.
  • Brainstorm with Erika’s Lighthouse staff on how to best utilize resources throughout the school year.
  • It is OK to ask students how they are feeling. Especially now, young people will want to know they have people to talk to.
  • Keep emphasizing Trusted Adults in the building so students continue to know that the school is a supportive and inclusive environment that they can feel safe in.
  • Support yourself! Self-care for educators is of the utmost importance. Take time to make sure you are getting the support you need during these times.

We recognize that the start of this school year can be challenging, and we want to ensure that this very important topic is discussed with empathy and understanding.

To gain access to more free resources to help you promote a healthy school culture around mental health, sign up today for a resource portal account.