Mental Health in Schools

The promotion of mental health is fundamental to school infrastructure and children’s educational experience.

Red Flags is committed to school-based mental health education not only because mental illness is a serious health concern, but especially, because mental health is critical to learning and teaching. Red Flags is rooted in the principle that education is about guiding children’s physical and mental development so that they can flourish in their world and contribute to a just and vibrant society. As such the promotion of mental health is fundamental to school infrastructure and children’s educational experience.

Red Flags is first and foremost a design for prevention that promotes:

  • The understanding of good emotional and behavioral health and the development of sound mental health habits.
  • An awareness that mental illnesses occur on a continuum from mild to severe
  • The ability to recognize early warning symptoms
  • Knowing when and where to ask for help

Red Flags is designed for schools for the following reasons:

  • That’s where the kids are
  • That’s where parents and those who work with kids are
  • Metal illness is a health issue and needs to be understood as a health issue
  • Stigma around mental health is based on ignorance
  • In a very short time, kids become adults

After nearly 20 years of development and implementation, Red Flags is living proof that mental health education can be:

  • inexpensive and sustainable.
  • brief, easy to implement, and not detract from or encroach on academics.
  • embedded in the curriculum
  • an educational resource for the entire school community: teachers, staff, volunteers, parents, and kids.
  • connected to the larger community and health professionals
  • available to every child and every family
  • flexible and able to adapt to the culture of the school

To assure the maximum impact of Red Flags the following elements must be implemented:

  • Information is given to teachers/staff every year
  • A unit for students is presented to every student at that grade level every year
  • Information is given to parents every year
  • Adoption and publication of a protocol for referring and accommodation students in need
  • Contact made with local resources: family practitioners/psychiatrists/counseling services

Consequently: Red Flags is much, much more than a suicide prevention program, although, unfortunately, a crisis too often prompts its adoption. Suicide prevention programs save lives. The necessary and beneficial knowledge suicide prevention programs impart belongs in the safety toolbox of everyone at the school. But suicide prevention is not enough. If used as the sole approach to mental health in schools, suicide prevention risks perpetuating a reactive attitude to mental illness that fixes focus at the crisis end of the spectrum.

Mental illnesses are disorders of the brain, and just like physical disorders are most successfully treated at onset. The goal of Red Flags is to encourage the development of sound mental health habits and enable quick intervention at the first warning signs of difficulty, just as we do for other illnesses.

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Using videos for students and low cost materials for teachers and parents, Red Flags offers schools a comprehensive, affordable, common sense approach to basic mental health education.
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