Implementing The Model School District Policy On Suicide Prevention: Part III
By Kristina Kins & Brandon Combs
Classroom Programming: Educating & Identifying Students
The heart of Erika’s Lighthouse vision is the power of programs with impact. The Erika’s Lighthouse Classroom Programs were designed to be high-impact in classrooms around the country. As Tier 1 universal curricula, the programs are meant to educate and empower all students and in turn, create action.
The Model School Policy recommends “developmentally appropriate, student-centered education materials shall be integrated into the curriculum of all K-12 health classes and other classes as appropriate.” In addition, “the content shall also include help-seeking strategies for oneself or others and how to engage school resources and refer friends for help” and “schools shall provide supplemental small-group suicide prevention programming for students. It is not recommended to deliver any programming related to suicide prevention to a large group in an auditorium setting.”
The middle and high school programs developed by Erika’s Lighthouse meet these criteria and are specifically designed for educators to teach in health education classrooms, with further encouragement to be co-taught by a mental health professional within the school. In addition, all Erika’s Lighthouse programs should be completed in small-group, classroom settings to engage students in meaningful conversations and to track student emotional health.
An effective Tier 1 intervention program provides educators and students the opportunity to learn, understand, and empathize with others regarding mental health issues and challenges. It also builds a foundation for future instruction and intervention. The program should generate a common vocabulary in a school community, ensuring administrators, educators, students, and parents are speaking the same language.
While optional, an impactful and empowering opportunity for students is to fill out a self-referral card at the conclusion of Erika’s Lighthouse lessons. This allows students to alert school staff that they may need to seek help for themselves or a friend, and wish to speak with an adult. This is just one simple way that students can feel empowered and take action. In addition, Erika’s Lighthouse programs are skills-based – providing teens the tools they need to find and ask for help if they are ever struggling in the future.
Tier 1 curriculum and programs also inform Tier 2 and 3 interventions, both through shared vocabulary, ancillary supports, resources, and professional development. “Tier 2 or secondary prevention programs target subgroups of students identified as at-risk for mental health disorders but not yet exhibiting symptoms. These programs are often designed to provide staff or faculty skills to identify and respond to specific mental health issues or populations (e.g., suicide prevention, substance use)”.
The curriculum is not the only aspect of Erika’s Lighthouse offerings. A number of additional supports are offered such as self-referral cards and informational bookmarks that also promote help-seeking, positive mental health behaviors, and link to the Erika’s Lighthouse Parent Handbook on Childhood and Teen Depression.
The importance of these ancillary materials to support school-based activities and policies is essential to the seamless implementation of suicide prevention and mental health education.
Join us for two future posts detailing specific areas of implementation of the district policy, covering: Part 4: Parent Engagement: Supporting Students Outside the Classroom, Part 5: Teen Engagement: Creating Inclusive School Communities.
Access all the free resources provided by Erika’s Lighthouse at ErikasLighthouse.org.