Teaching about mental health

Teachers who are concerned about helping students understand mental health issues have at least one sensible places where they can go for teaching resources: Breaking the Silence, a Web resource offered by a local National Alliance on Mental Illness group. BTS, as it calls itself, provides a combination of neighborhood (NY, US) and widely available services (including a downloadable teacher’s “toolkit” with lesson plans, posters, and more).
The BTS folks make the case for teaching about mental health in this way:

Did you know that before the age of fourteen at least half of those who will develop a mental illness are already showing symptoms? Unrecognized and untreated, it often takes years before young people with a life altering psychiatric disorder get the help they need.

Why should that be? Unfortunately, the words “mental illness” still conjure up images of violence and poorly functioning, sad people. As teachers and mothers we have learned the hard way the tragic cost of allowing these stereotypes to prevail. That is why we have created “Breaking the Silence; Teaching the Next Generation about Mental Illness” (BTS), an innovative teaching tool for three grade levels that replaces fiction with fact and teaches tolerance toward young people struggling with mental illness.

This “Teacher’s Section” is devoted to familiarizing you with the contents of BTS. Register below and you will find a detailed description of what is in each packet, suggestions on how to integrate BTS into your curriculum, facts about mental illness, and a staff development power point. Help us create classrooms where mental illness is accepted and understood. Help students get the care they need so they can do well in school. Help us break the silence about mental illness!

The developers have even evaluated the effects of using their curriculum, using an experimental-control design with middle schoolers. They found that students generally reported more positive views of individuals with mental illness and of providing services to those individuals after participating in a curriculum using the BTS curriculum.

Learn more about the BTS project by visiting Breaking the Silence at btslessonplans.org Meanwhile, support your local NAMI folks; check the sidebar for ‘nami’ and visit the main site to find your local group. Does anyone have another example of a local NAMI chapter running special programs for children and youths? Please post a comment.

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