Erika’s Lighthouse focuses on equipping school communities with the mental health education needed through four main pillars. Classroom Education, Family Engagement, Empowerment Clubs, and School Policy & Staff Development. These work together to promote and support an inclusive school culture around mental health by targeting all stakeholders in the school community; staff, caregivers, and students.
Classroom Education includes 3 levels of programming which are divided across grade levels beginning in 4th grade and up to 12th grade. All video-based lessons focus on help-seeking skills as well as good mental health practices and empower students to take charge of their mental health.
Family Engagement is a program that educates and engages families through workshops and a parent handbook. The program educates parents and caregivers on adolescent depression and good mental health practices. It prepares and guides them to have conversations about mental health and support their child’s mental health.
Our Empowerment Clubs encourage teens to spread empowerment and a positive message about mental health. We provide youth with awareness into action activities that invite everyone in the school building to take charge of their mental health, promote positivity and fight the stigma around depression and mental health by normalizing conversations across the school building.
The School Policy and Staff Development pillar is formed by lessons that teach staff to recognize signs and symptoms of depression and provide guidance on how to help and support a student’s needs. This pillar guides schools into how to implement the programs with the goal of creating an inclusive school environment.
⇒ Comment from Participant: Cairn Guidance team is here and excited for the discussion!
Theoretically, how do the Four Pillars make an impact in schools?
The pillars work together to foster inclusive school cultures around mental health. Theoretically, by educating students, parents, and staff there is common knowledge about mental health, a shared vocabulary for more effective communication, and a safe environment that promotes mental health conversations. These conversations can then lead to early identification and prevention.
By targeting the school environment as a whole, we create a support system where mental health conversations are normalized, where students understand mental health, find the support they need and adults understand how they can make an impact. The pillars are constructed with positive messaging throughout the programs to instill the message of hope.
⇒ Comment from Participant: Since the EL curriculum is aligned to the National Health Education Standards, we know more health teachers are willing to use it with their students!
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: Yes! Having attended many Health and PE conferences, we have absolutely seen and heard about how important it is to have a program that meets the National Health Education Standards. This is a priority to health ed teachers.
⇒ Comment from Participant: The “pillar” approach is really the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) approach to ensure all policies, programs and practices at a school are sending consistent messages and supports!
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: Absolutely. And syncs well with the CDC’s focus on “School Connectedness” – one of the outcomes of an inclusive school community.
Pragmatically, how do the Four Pillars make an impact in schools?
Our programs are skills-based, which means that students, parents, and staff walk away with knowledge on how to seek help, how to get help and how to have conversations about mental health.
The Classroom Education pillar is responsible for educating students about mental health, recognizing signs and symptoms of depression and how to seek help. This means that students will be able recognize when they or a friend need help and understand who can support them in this journey. The Family Engagement pillar educates parents on what adolescent depression looks like, the importance of understanding and reducing stigma, and identifying good coping strategies. It also guides parents in confidently leading conversations around the topics of mental health.
The Teen Empowerment pillar has the important task of empowering students, reducing stigma, spreading empathy and developing a culture of good mental health in schools. This is achieved by providing students with Awareness into Action activities that can be used throughout the school year in their buildings.
Finally, the School Policy and Staff Development pillar creates an impact by supporting schools when creating policies and protocols that enhance and sustain an inclusive school environment. This pillar offers the education needed to assure that all the adults in the building understand adolescent depression, understand how to be a trusted adult, what crisis intervention looks like and how to leverage all the programs and resources Erika’s Lighthouse has.
The four pillars can be used independently, however, they scaffold each other to create a safety net around mental health support.
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: Skills-based – thanks to Cairn Guidance and their help!
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: And – I’d add – that Erika’s Lighthouse does not believe the Four Pillars need to be Erika’s Lighthouse pillars. All four should be in every school – but they can be the program that works best for that environment!
How do the Four Pillars fit into the Erika’s Lighthouse framework?
Promoting an inclusive school culture around mental health requires a strong foundation and ongoing support from everyone involved in the school community. At Erika’s lighthouse we know it is achievable and we have a framework to help schools and districts create and maintain a supportive environment. We believe that it is crucial to have foundational beliefs and assumptions, shared values, norms, patterns and behaviors, and tangible evidence.
Each of the pillars strongly supports the foundational beliefs that we all deserve good mental health, that mental health is as important as physical health and that mental health is everyone’s responsibility.
The pillars encourage the values that in order to combat adolescent depression we need to approach it with empathy and collaboration. We all can help students be resilient, create inclusiveness to meet them where they need it and empower them to take charge of their mental health.
For a successful implementation of the pillars, there are norms that help achieve the biggest impact. Every adult within the school community needs to be educated and recognize signs of depression and how to be a trusted adult. Family engagement and involvement is important as well as good communication across stakeholders with up to date protocols from the schools.
When all adults share the same patterns and behaviors towards mental health, the school culture becomes inclusive and supportive. The pillars encourage the idea that all adults are accessible to students, parents and peers, share the same vocabulary, and communicate and collaborate together in a purposeful way. The pillars empower the students to take action by seeking help for themselves and others, and to consistently work towards reducing stigma.
Finally, the Erika’s Lighthouse framework recognizes the importance of using tangible evidence to support the messaging in the school environment. We all have a shared stake in supporting youth and this can be done through consistent messaging across the buildings. Supportive signs to promote good mental health, reduction of stigma messaging, peer-led campaigns, invitations for families to be involved and multi-disciplinary collaboration.
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: The beauty of our framework is that it is truly universal. We leverage it with mental health, but you can do it with any school-based initiative.
How do schools get started?
To gain access to Erika’s lighthouse mental health education programs, you will begin by creating a resource portal account. Once created, you are able to access our Classroom Education, Family Engagement, Teen Empowerment, and School Policy & Staff Development pillars. We believe all of the pillars are equally fundamental to creating a positive school culture around mental health. However, you can begin implementing the pillars depending on your school’s needs. Our team is always available to guide you in best practices for each of the program implementations or to assist in gaining administrative support throughout the school.
⇒ Comment from Participant: We are excited to incorporate Erika’s Lighthouse curriculum into our suicide prevention and anti-bullying programs in Montgomery County, KY.
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: – We are happy to hear this! Please let us know if there is anything we can do to support you in your implementation of our programs!
⇒ Comment from Participant: Our team is wondering what have the barriers been working with schools/districts and implementing one to all of the pillars?
⇒ Comment from Participant: I would say Family Engagement due to so many of our kiddos being in alternate placements and so many grandparents raising their grandchildren.
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: 100%. We see challenges with FE as well. A really tough group to reach, which is why we have worked hard to provide different styles of education (books, workshops, recordings) to impact that population meaningfully.
⇒ Comment from Erika’s Lighthouse: Some schools have come across barriers when dealing with the capacity that the buildings have. Some schools don’t have enough staff to implement all four pillars, so they have to focus on the ones they can cover.