Educating parents and students about mental health

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)—The Michigan Model for Health provides educators with an online curriculum for Kindergarten until 12th grade. This program helps teachers educate students on various skills to build and maintain healthy lifestyles. Each lesson is age-appropriate and focuses on serious challenges a student can face from preschool as they grow older. 

Sean Williams is the Deputy Superintendant at Eaton RESA where they provide support for some local academies and schools. Williams states educators use’s the Michigan Model for Health in their lesson plans to help teach their students about emotional, and social health. 

“We do our best to work with the teachers and we work through the districts with our health coordinators,” Williams said. “You want to talk about your content, and then find a connection to social-emotional learning so it happens really authentically, and students are engaged in the lesson that you’re trying to teach.” 

The Michigan Model for Health is a free resource the program focuses on eight health education standards such as the core-concepts of accessing information, health behaviors, analyzing influences, social skills, goal setting, decision making, and advocacy.  

Williams suggests teachers can use the program in their lesson plans in ways they feel comfortable. The program is sequential and can be split-up within multiple areas to provide extra support to a student in various lessons. Teachers can utilize it in their virtual classrooms or in-person learning.

However, the Michigan Model for Health correlates with another program called, “The Youth Mental Health First  Aid Program.” This is offered across the country through the National Council for Behavioral Health. Which provides resources to communities in America that are coping with mental health illnesses, and addictions treatment organizations. Williams suggests this program helps students get the whole effect of being educated about their mental, and emotional health from family, friends, and their local community. 

The Youth Mental Health First Aid Program is for adults to learn about coping mechanisms in younger people, and understand ways to properly connect without disregarding their personal emotions. 

“It’s really a way for adults to have the ability to work with students that might not be ready for their lesson,” Williams said, “but find a way that’s academic-oriented to get them engaged… so it’s really not about counseling students around their mental health it’s about using strategies to get them pulled into the lessons and ignite learning.”

Mary Ann Schmedlen is a certified youth mental health first aid trainer– through the youth mental health first aid program. She works with teachers, government officials, and parents to teach them how to recognize symptoms, and signs of potential mental health challenges.

Her main recommendation to adults in her program is listening to understand what the youth has to genuinely say. 

“It teaches them about anxiety, depression, eating disorders, other types of disorders,” Schmedlen stated, “common signs and symptoms of substance use disorder and how to interact with a child or adolescent that’s in crisis, and how to connect that person with help.”

Schmedlen says each local school district in Eaton, Ingham, and Clinton counties have the opportunity to either have a trainer, or access to a trainer through the ISD or RESA. 

“I just think we need to get people comfortable with the youth themselves,”  Schmedlen said, “or the adults working with them, or just parents, or community members.”

Williams and Schmidlin say these programs are a domino effect, and they say if students
receive emotional support from all areas of their life like home, school, and their community this can ultimately create a stronger next generation.  

“The program really encourages us to work with families and students in a way that we’re all supporting students together its everybody moving in unison in the same direction,” Williams exclaimed, “speaking the same language which is really critical, and also just prioritizing the student’s well-being over everything else including academics.”

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