Suite360 Mental Health & Prevention is designed to START a conversation about mental health and other sensitive topics. The digital programming will give your students a basic understanding of mental health and other topics such as child trafficking, substance misuse and abuse, and online safety as well as resources available to them. A crucial part of these important conversations is the connection that comes from discussing these difficult issues in an open and respectful manner.
That is why each lesson also includes a Teacher Companion Guide (download links at the bottom of the page) that provides you with a brief summary of the lesson, important vocabulary, and potential follow up questions. If you’re not sure how to begin having these conversations, just review the Key Takeaways or go to the Continue the Conversation section of the companion guide and ask one of the questions. You know your students best and can guide the discussion from there.
Introspection and reflection are also critical parts of helping students grapple with this subject material. Therefore, every lesson also includes a writing prompt and a grading rubric matched with an academic standard to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the lessons.
Two pages within these Teacher Companion Guides stand out from the rest. First, please print the Student Resources page found just after the Table of Contents and post this in your classroom and around the school. It is important that students always have access to resources they can use to seek help for themselves or others should the need arise.
Second, please ask students to complete the Student Support Sheet found after the Student Resources page. Each student should write down the name of at least one trusted adult and ensure that they know how to contact that adult. That page may then be sent home with students. If a student does not have a trusted adult’s name that they can write on this form, discuss the situation with your school counselor or district mental health professional.
If a student ever asks a question or shares information that you don’t have the answers to or know how to respond to, take the following steps:
Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including biological factors (e.g., brain chemistry), life experiences like trauma or abuse, and family history of mental health problems.
According to the National Research Council:
● 13-20% of children living in the U.S. have a mental health concern.
● Suicide is the second leading cause of death among children ages 12-17.
● Mood disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder) are the most common mental health diagnoses among youth.
● Approximately 1 in 5 youth worldwide experience mental health conditions prior to turn age 25. A typical school of 500 students could have up to 100 students with mental health needs.
The facts are scary but critically important for protecting youth.
● Child sex trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, and/or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation before the child reaches 18 years of age.”
● As many as 300,000 school-age children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States.
● Studies show that the average age a child is trafficked into the commercial sex trade is between 11 and 14 years old.
● It is estimated that more than 20 million men, women, and children around the world are victims of human trafficking.
● A person can be trafficked without ever leaving his or her hometown.
● One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.
● There is a high correlation between substance misuse and abuse and trafficking.
● More and more traffickers are recruiting their victims online through social media and multiplayer games.
The goal of these lessons is for students to learn the risk factors and warning signs of child trafficking and substance misuse and abuse as well as how to keep themselves safe. Students of all ages are encouraged to seek help for themselves and others if they see or experience these warning signs.
Risk Factors. To reduce risk, we must have open conversations about prevention, but we must also build self-esteem and foster healthy relationships. This creates a solid foundation that makes kids less vulnerable to tricks and traps of traffickers or groomers. Good grades, socioeconomic status, and a two-parent home are not insulators; the vulnerability of the child is key to who will be targeted.
While trafficking can occur to anyone in any situation, some factors have been known to contribute to a person’s vulnerability to being trafficked. These include:
● Lack of education or job opportunities
● Displaced people and refugees
● School-age youth made vulnerable by unstable family situations or who have little or no social support
● Kids in the state or county custody
Warning Signs. Human trafficking can often go unnoticed, even by an individual interacting with a victim on a regular basis. Recognizing “red flags” can help alert others to a harmful situation. Red flags include a student who:
● Has unexplained absences from school or an inability to attend school on a regular basis
● Suddenly changes their usual attire, behavior, or relationships
● Suddenly has more expensive material possessions
● Chronically runs away from home
● Acts fearful, anxious, depressed, tense, or nervous and paranoid
● Shows signs of physical or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or other serious pain and suffering
● Seems to be deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities
● Makes references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms or engaging in uncharacteristically promiscuous behavior
Source: Human Trafficking Toolkit
There are several ways that the content of Suite360 Mental Health & Prevention can be implemented. Each option is presented here. Please talk with your school administrators to learn which implementation option you should use in your classroom.
The online lesson presentation includes three options. Online content may be teacher-led using a computer and SmartBoard. It can be student-directed as students go through lessons independently on their own computers or devices. Finally, a hybrid approach may be used where teachers lead lessons to the whole class while students respond individually on their own devices.
Activities following the online lessons include adult-facilitated discussions and a follow-up activity. Teachers may decide the duration of each of these and may shorten or lengthen the lesson by asking more or fewer questions.
Follow-up activities differ for younger and older students. Performance-based activities are provided in this guide for each lesson for younger students in grades K-2. Students in grades three through twelve are provided with a written prompt. Teachers may set guidelines for students as they complete these assignments to further manage time.
The State of Florida mandates a total of five hours of mental health instruction for students in grades 6-12. That can be completed by completing one online lesson per topic (approximately 30 minutes), followed by 20 minutes of discussion and activities.