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School-based depression education and outreach collaborations

Early recognition and management of depression can help better prevent negative outcomes and tragedy among young people in our schools and our communities. Since the peak onset of depression and bipolar symptoms is between 15 - 24 years of age, increased awareness of depression among this age group is the first step toward implementing effective intervention.

Since 2007, the Depression Center has collaborated with school districts locally, across the state, and nationally to develop depression awareness and suicide prevention education, training, and support programs for school personnel, students, and the community. These initiatives are designed to:

  1. Address the need for early recognition of depression, bipolar disorder and risk for suicide among youth;
  2. Further educate teachers, counselors, mental health professionals, and other “front line” personnel working with young people to raise their awareness and knowledge of depressive and bipolar illnesses and suicide risk factors.

Read more about ongoing partnerships with Washtenaw County Schools and Byram Hills (N.Y.) High School.

An earlier collaboration between the Depression Center and Gull Lake Community Schools continues to serve as a model for our active partnerships. This initiative focused on youth depression and suicide prevention and incorporated nationally recognized “best practices” into the training and education of staff and students.

  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the Schools | Read the Article

With the generous support of the Evans and Mackey families (both of which include U-M alumni) and in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Michigan Medicaid, the U-M Depression Center is now in its third year of building a unique program that will bring effective mental health care to school-aged children and adolescents with mental illnesses throughout the state. This program, called CBT in the Schools, which is led by psychiatry faculty member Dr. Elizabeth Koschmann represents an exciting step towards bridging science and real-world practice, two realms that can be challenging to connect.

Depression and anxiety now affect one in five school-aged youths. Exposure to trauma, such as violence or child abuse, impacts nearly 60 percent of U.S. children, and can often lead to debilitating symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In addition, suicide remains among the top three causes of death for adolescents.

Despite this urgent and critical need, access to mental health care is riddled with difficulty, including inadequate insurance coverage, long wait lists, and lack of transportation. Due to the challenges parents face when trying to access mental health care for their children, public schools are often the only source for much needed help, yet most graduate programs for school professionals rarely teach effective strategies for responding to student mental illnesses. Therefore, most schools are unprepared to help their troubled students.

Michigan’s CBT in the Schools program links the U-M Depression Center with public schools statewide to provide training in evidence-based mental health care approaches. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is the focus of the program because CBT skills have been scientifically shown to be effective, even when taught in few short sessions or classes, thus making it a natural fit for the school setting.

As its name implies, CBT targets cognitions (thoughts) and behaviors (reactions), and empowers the learner to recognize and gain control over their responses to difficult situations. With better self-awareness and a toolkit of healthful coping strategies, youths are able to improve their emotional wellbeing and engage in a healthier, more productive lifestyles, standing up to the hopelessness, isolation, worry, and shame that so often accompany depression and anxiety.

For the school professionals with that the Depression Center partners with, CBT provides a way to respond efficiently and effectively to the overwhelming mental health needs of their students. Whether in a one-time drop-in meeting or a consistent weekly group, the guidance counselors, social workers, and school psychologists in our program are providing a new level of care for their students, and they are seeing the effects.

One counselor wrote to our team -

I want to thank you for all of your help and guidance. [I have developed] a deep understanding of how to use CBT more effectively to help students, and now I use it ALL the time! And… because of our CBT group, our school now has a mindfulness, meditation, and yoga class to help students manage their stressful lives. I thank you for helping to be part of that whole manifestation. Thanks for making us all be our better selves!

As we look to next year, the CBT in Schools program will be continuing its expansion, aiming to partner with a school-based professional in every county in Michigan. We are united across the state in our mission to help students not just grow, but thrive with sound health in both body and mind.