Kathryn Goetzke, Founder, International Foundation For Research and Education on Depression
A new school year brings a flurry of activity with the return to early morning alarm clocks, class schedules, new teachers, and a renewed connection with peers after summer break. Homework returns and many extracurricular activities are back in full swing. It can be an exciting time to see friends and share summer stories. But for some children, the school year may elicit feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and sadness. Left unrecognized, these feelings can lead to a decline in a child’s emotional wellness, relationships with family and friends, and academic performance. In some circumstances, the consequences can be devastating.
That is why children need to learn from an early age how to care for their emotional health, just as they learn academic skills, as each will help prepare them for success and happiness in life. The importance of always having hope is a vital component to mental health across age groups. Hope has been found to correspond with greater emotional and psychological well-being, enhanced personal relationships, and greater academic performance with published research suggesting hope is a skill that can be taught.
Free hope-based curriculum for schools
Understanding this critical need, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) developed Schools for Hope —a free research-based curriculum available to all schools and communities—that teaches mental health tools to support children in their hope. Hopelessness has been found to be a leading predictor to suicide and the number one symptom of depression; therefore the program aims not only to promote emotional wellness in children, but ultimately to save lives.
A recent study suggests one out of nine children is attempting suicide before graduating from high school, with 40% self-reporting attempts as early as grade school. The same study revealed that suicide attempts rise steeply when children reach age 12. Schools for Hope targets ten-year-old children to teach them essential skills for wellness before what may become a challenging time developmentally.
Curriculum meets social and emotional learning standards
Topics covered as part of the curriculum include understanding the biology of the brain, defining ‘success,’ and connecting one’s passion and purpose in life. Students discuss their individual feelings on hope and their goals in life. They learn ways to manage life challenges including self-regulatory techniques such as meditation and visualization. Each student identifies a support person and is taught how to ask for help when they lose sight of their hope.
Schools for Hope meets the criteria and standards for social and emotional learning (SEL) set in place in many states. Recognizing the critical importance of wellness education, academic leaders, policymakers, and educators are implementing these types of programs across the nation. In fact, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) introduced the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act in 2015 to support teacher training in SEL. Congressman Ryan stated, “These programs are scientifically proven to help students increase skills in problem-solving, conflict resolution, responsible decision-making and relationship building—these are the skills that will build the foundation for students to better perform academically and throughout their lives. Now is the time to promote programs that create safer and more secure school culture in America.”
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning Organization (CASEL), students who receive an education that includes well-implemented SEL programs have improved behavior and academic performance and less emotional stress.
Every child deserves hope and the opportunity to face life equipped with the essential tools for emotional wellness. Perhaps with these skills in place, we not only are providing the path for a life of fulfillment and success, but we are preventing the consequences hopelessness may bring.
To learn how you can support or bring the Schools for Hope Program to your community, please contact Penny Tate at (734) 355-6716. Curriculum and resources may be located at www.schoolsforhope.org.
- How important is teaching hope to students?
- What is your school doing to incorporate mental health education into the curriculum?
Kathryn Goetzke is the founder of iFred (the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression), dedicated to encouraging research on depression and reducing the stigma associated with the disease. Kathryn serves on the Global Mental Health Advisory Board, and has presented on the need to rebrand depression around the world for NGOs and nonprofits. She is an entrepreneur and innovator of product lines associated with cause marketing campaigns for depression and is the CEO of The Mood Factory.