Mental health literacy and the Pathway Through Care
Mental Health Literacy (MHL) is foundational for mental health improvements, and schools are naturally equipped with the capacity to foster MHL.
MHL has four components:
- Understanding how to optimize and maintain good mental health
- Understanding mental disorders and their treatments
- Decreasing stigma
- Increasing help-seeking efficacy
This school-related mental health work fits into the development and support of a horizontally integrated, system improving, sustainable and frugal approach to enhancing mental health care for young people and their families: The Pathway Through Mental Health Care model. The Pathway through Care model proposes a simple innovative method for integrating education and healthcare opportunities that would result in youth, teachers, families, student services providers, primary care providers, and even mental health professionals becoming more mental health literate while concurrently establishing efficient access to effective mental health care. This mental health literacy work is based on applying best evidence demonstrated resources and interventions in classrooms by trained classroom teachers that are designed to build on and improve existing educational system MHL capacity in a sustainable, pedagogically valid and cost effective way. This work is not dependent on fidelity of implementation as it is a pedagogical method common to everyday classroom teaching and thus fits how all school curriculums are delivered globally.
The Guide is a classroom ready, evidence-based resource consisting of 6 modules (freely available online) that teachers learn how to apply in their classrooms during a one-day training period. Teachers then teach the material in their classes. This simple method improves mental health literacy for both teachers and students simultaneously. The curriculum resource is embedded in the school curriculum and new teachers are trained by a local trainer’s team, thus providing sustainability. As of October 2017 this training is available online, certified by the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia as accredited teacher continuing professional education.
The Guide resource is the only evidence-based, nationally certified school mental health literacy resource in Canada designed to be applied in grades eight, nine or ten (ages 13-16 years). The Guide addresses mental health literacy through 6 modules:
- The stigma of mental illness
- Understanding mental health and mental illness
- Information about specific mental illnesses
- Experience of mental illness
- Seeking help and finding support
- The importance of positive mental health
Each module includes a full suite of teaching materials including lesson plans, core and supplementary learning resources (PowerPoint presentations, animated videos, web-based links, printable PDF format resources, and other materials). These materials can be downloaded from the Resources section.
Teacher training and resources
The teacher training in the classroom application of the resource is conducted through teacher trainer groups embedded in either school boards or in a Provincial team. These teams receive a three-day train-the-trainer session from Dr. Kutcher and his team. Once local training teams are established, they provide the one-day training on the classroom application of the Guide to teachers, usually during existing Professional Development (PD) days. This has proven to be an efficient and inexpensive method for scaling out the intervention across large educational systems.
Over two years, Dr. Kutcher and his team have also been conducting a semi-structured formative evaluation of the Guide materials and the classroom application of the Guide. The information collected from teachers and trainers has led to the development of a “Chair Certified Resources” (CCR) team of educators, students, parents and mental health professionals whose job is to vet potential mental health literacy resources for their accuracy and pedagogic suitability for classroom use. This resource list was made freely available to all Canadian educators in December 2015/January 2016 and some of its components will be added to the online teacher resources that support the classroom application of the Guide. Additionally, these data have been used to update the Guide and classroom ready modules to the current version which has as of July 18, 2017 been made freely available to all educators on the website.