Embedding Mental Health Literacy and Skills in to Preservice Educator Training at Bloomsburg University

Why is Mental Health Literacy so important?

According to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (2015), approximately one in five children have or will experience a severe mental disorder. Nearly one in three students in Pennsylvania reported symptoms of depression with a little more than one in five students reporting that they felt so sad or hopeless every day for two weeks or more that they stopped doing some of their usual activities (Pennsylvania Youth Survey, 2017). Facilitating social, emotional and behavioral wellness of students is essential to enhance healthy growth, development and achievement. Building mental health literacy in aspiring educators is essential to address non-academic barriers to learning in order to support student achievement and retention.

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA): Situated just prior to Capstone/Student Teaching

YMHFA is an 8-hour course that gives people the skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it does build mental health literacy, helping the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness. Mental Health First Aiders learn a single 5-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other supports. Participants are also introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health or substance use problems, engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families, and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.

Question – Persuade – Refer (QPR): Situated upon Formal Entry to Teacher Candidacy

QPR is a 2 hour educational program designed to teach lay and professional "gatekeepers" the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond. The process follows three steps: (1) Question the individual's desire or intent regarding suicide, (2) Persuade the person to seek and accept help, and (3) Refer the person to appropriate resources. QPR training results in increased knowledge about suicide, gatekeeper self-efficacy, knowledge of suicide prevention resources, gatekeeper skills, and diffusion of gatekeeper training information. The specific objectives of QPR training include: 1) increasing the ability to recognize someone at risk for suicide, 2) building skills to effectively intervene with those at risk; and 3) developing skills to refer someone at risk to an appropriate resource.

Virtual Modules: Embedded within Targeted Core Courses

  • Kognito is a virtual professional development platform that has developed numerous mental health awareness modules that accomplish two main goals: 1) increase fluency in basic understanding of mental health issues for educators and 2) skill building in association with having conversations with students of concern. These goals are addressed by using simulated conversations with virtual humans (avatars). The At-risk Middle School module is strategically embedded within EDFOUND 291.
  • McDowell Institute Valued-added Modules and course alignment:
    • Introduction to Trauma (SPECED 101)
    • Rapport as a Protective Factor (SPECED 275)
    • Adverse Childhood Experiences: Considerations of Trauma for Teachers (SPECED 358)
    • Building Student resiliency through Social Emotional Behavioral Expectations (SPECED 358)
    • Positive Reinforcement as a Protective Factor in Building Student Resiliency -Impact of Implicit Bias (EDFOUND 406)

PDE Endorsement in Social-Emotional-Behavioral Wellness PK-12 Students: Elective

The purpose of this endorsement is to further prepare professional educators to build resiliency in students by facilitating social, emotional, and behavioral wellness in order to address non-academic barriers to learning. This endorsement is a 12 credit program that requires additional, in depth study and field experiences in conjunction with completion of an educator preparatory program at BU. Endorsement, like professional certification, occurs through PDE once the initial certification is obtained based on application documenting successful completion of the PDE approved 12 credit program.

How do I get information and support concerning this type of curricular infusion?

For additional information about these evidence-based programs offered through the McDowell Institute, contact Tim Knoster (tknoster@bloomu.edu) or Danielle Empson (dempson@bloomu.edu) at the McDowell Institute.