David Hymowitz: Director of #SameHere Schools
#SameHere Schools programs support students’ social and emotional development, and their sense of connection to the teachers, staff, and their peers. The #SameHereSchools program creates a cultural shift within schools, providing a safe atmosphere for students to express themselves openly and communicate when they are dealing with emotional or mental health challenges – whether they be originating at home, in school, or out in the community. By helping change a school’s culture, together, we make it more acceptable for students to ask for help, and for teachers and administrators to recognize when help is needed – before there are verbal and non-verbal communication breakdowns and misunderstandings. A key focus is also the encouragement of proactively looking at our mental health, to take care of ourselves before problems may arise, just like we do with our physical health.
The Movement and its Alliance recognizes the complex nature of addressing stress, underlying trauma, and overall mental health in schools. This program is primarily focused on mental health awareness, prevention, education, and positive culture development. We can partner with your school and/or district on the following initiatives below, and either start small, or build in a number of these initiatives at the on-set, so that an impact is being made throughout the entire school year:
A) Launch Assembly (one or multiple assemblies with various schools in a district) with the entire school community, led by a member of The Alliance who shares their own story of overcoming life’s challenges, and how they ended up asking for help – learning practices and healthy living styles that changed their life. The concept of #SameHere (how “5 in 5” of us face challenges and we ALL have a story) is woven in as a theme throughout the assembly sessions. This presentation provides students and staff with a relate-able comforting back-stories to introduce this powerful message. We help schools then weave this concept into their culture, helping to proactively address students’ mental health needs: everything from from needing a break in class, to dealing with challenging interactions in the school yard, to greater comfort level in asking to speak with a school’s mental health professional. The Alliance Member shares their own personal mental health challenges, to show that – we all go through obstacles in life, and therefore it’s OK to ask for help. These assemblies help each school change the common misconception that students who go to see a counselor, take some time out, or even ask for help, are “weak.”
B) Break-Out Sessions tailored to each of the following groups, that your school/district may choose to incorporate (on top of the assemblies above). You may choose to do one, some, or all of the following break out sessions, to ensure messages are being re-enforced and specific topic areas are covered with the entire school community, for 1) Teachers/TA’s/Coaches, 2) Building & District-Level Administrators & Supervisors, 3) Guidance Counselors/Social Workers/School Psychologists/School Nurses, 4) School Security Guards/Custodians/Aides/Secretarial Staff, 5) Specific Student Groups, 6) Parents (typically done through voluntary night sessions, after work hours).
C) #SameHere Curriculum (created by a panel of experts with many decades of experience both in psychology and education) developed to educate students on the science of stress and trauma over time, their impact on our minds and bodies, and the signs and the symptoms that would enable us to quickly support an individual developing complications. In addition, the curriculum demystifies specific mental health terms to ensure students’ understanding of what to look out for and how to best address these concerns by asking for help. While the curriculum educates students (grade-level specific), on terms like Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, so that more are able to self-identify, and know when it is time to ask for help, based on their symptoms, the main focus of the curriculum is the real-world challenges that we all face, that affect our mental health. The curriculum is also interactive and weaves in clips from Alliance Members reinforcing important topic points, as well as illustrations, animations and collaborative exercises to optimize learning and understanding. By using Alliance Members, we help “normalize” this topic and make it socially acceptable to discuss in school/with peers, etc. This is also where we introduce the #SameHere Scale referenced on the “Programs” page, either through the curriculum itself, or as a standalone app where teachers and students can communicate as to how they are feeling on any given day/week/month, etc. Schools can also access options for large #SameHere Scales for your classrooms.
D) Daily Release & Rewiring Exercise taught to a group of teachers, administrator, and student leaders (selected by each school) for them champion and implement for a few minutes per day with the full school population to reduce stress, elevate moods, and raise overall performance. We call these exercises “STARR” Exercises (Stress & Trauma, Active Release & Rewiring). We deliver training for these types of exercises directly with your school community. You can even access STARR Exercise cards before we begin to work together.
E) #SameHere Student-Led Mental Health Clubs where we work with a group of students that the school selects, as well as a board of at least one teacher/admin. selected by the school. Your student leaders are your biggest advocates for change, on an on-going, daily basis.
#SameHere Schools programs may be implemented with all of the activation points above, or schools/districts have the option to choose which specifics ones are most important and applicable to you. We have worked with schools all over the country and even internationally, big and small, from elementary, private and religious schools, to large middle and high schools. The #SameHere Schools Program allows your school or district to have an umbrella message about mental health and wellness that puts everyone in the community on the same page, using the same language and concepts. We look forward to the possibility of working with you.
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