Prepare U: The Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health Curriculum for Students
A new law in New York state was recently announced, requiring mental health literacy in schools. Please wait while I jump up and down for joy on my couch. One sec…
Okay, I’m back. Now, when this goes into effect on July 1 — therefore, technically going into effect for the Fall 2018 school year — schools will approach this in their own unique way. However, we don’t all live in New York State, which is why it’s important to discuss the need for this sort of curriculum in schools everywhere.
Preparing Students Across the Nation
Enter Prepare U, a mental, emotional, and behavioral health curriculum designed to deliver the tools necessary to help students navigate the complex challenges of emerging adulthood. Prepare U successfully completed its pilot program at one of the top high schools in the country, Michigan’s West Bloomfield High School, last year and is currently being implemented in health classes, by health teachers, to hundreds of students per semester.
The curriculum, which was developed by Therapy Live Founder and Psychotherapist Ryan Beale and designed by a team of clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, educators, and crisis intervention experts, is being endorsed by the President of the American Psychological Association Division for Media and Technology.
Designed for school teachers to be implemented as a stand-alone course or integrated into a health class for 13- to 18-year-olds, it’s all centered around building coping skills, improving resilience, and setting the stage for building a healthier and meaningful life, preparing students with the skills they’ll need to face challenges they may face in college and in their adult lives.
With Prepare U, kids learn the best ways to:
- Recognize suicidal ideation
- Decrease anxiety
- Develop problem solving skills
- Engage in self-care
- Process anger
- Cultivate empathy
- Manage social media use
- Foster healthy relationships
Lessons in Action
Teacher and Coach Jeremy Denha of West Bloomfield High School in Michigan said that, over time, as the class went on week by week, some of the kids who normally wouldn’t have talked in class began to open up, and facilitating these sessions made Denha feel like he was their peer instead of their superior.
“We got to see kids not just as, ‘I’m trying to learn something from a teacher,’ but as people with feelings, people who struggle, and I was able to give them skills that we actually learned together,” Denha said. “Growing up in high school, this stuff wasn’t talked about. And in my high school, there were multiple suicides in a year, and nobody helped us through it or helped us adjust. I’ve always done the best I can to listen, but my answers weren’t always right. Now I feel like I can do more talking and help them get to the root of these problems where I couldn’t have before.”
Having a lesson set over multiple weeks, he said, allowed the kids to get more comfortable with each other and created a team of students who respected each other instead of just a class. The content was important, but the relationships were a crucial emotional component.
West Bloomfield High Principal Patrick Watson says that for years, parents have been asking how to help their kids make sure they have the tools they need to be successful when it comes to their mental health. And while they have tried over the years to hold assemblies and bring in speakers, nothing has been as effective as this new curriculum.
“I saw one student articulate her feelings to her teacher and her father about something serious going on in her life, and share how she was trying to handle these difficulties. To see this young lady make a step forward like that was amazing,” Watson said. “I’ve been teaching for 25 years and this is the most important thing we’ve done when it comes to bringing systemic change to the school. We’re preparing them not just to go to work or college, but for mental health to be a part of their life.”
Student Nickolas Gastaris says that, in class, people talked about depression and what life is like living in a single-parent household. Hearing their experiences made him start to care more about the people around him.
“I started having empathy towards them. I was pretty sure nobody was going to tell, it was so personal,” said Gastaris. “It was a judgement-free zone in there; you didn’t have to be afraid.”
And when a close friend told him he was thinking about killing himself, he knew what to do. “I rode my bike over to his house and talked to him for hours – and he’s still my friend today. We still talk every day. It was a scary time, but this gave me the push to keep going with it.”
Images Courtesy of iStock