Volume 6, Winter 2010

BTS E-Newsletter
School & Community Mental Illness Education Projects

Greetings from BTS! 2009 has been a very exciting and busy year.

NIMH Study Evaluating BTS Nearing Completion bts

We’re almost at the finish line! In just a few short months we will have the final results of our NIMH study assessing knowledge gained and attitudinal and behavioral change resulting from middle school BTS lessons taught to selected schools nationwide. Preliminary results were presented at the NAMI national conference with our research partner, Dr. Otto Wahl. The Executive Summary states, “The BTS program is effective as a means to improve knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to mental illnesses among middle school students. Even brief instruction (2 ½-3 hours) can produce change in how students understand mental illnesses. Given the ease of administration of this program, BTS is a very promising approach to improving the way children perceive and respond to mental illnesses.”
Many thanks to the participating teachers and schools in New York, Florida, South Carolina, and New Mexico.

Stay tuned for the official report!

NYC Public School Outreach Goes Hi-Tech

Building on our ongoing relationship with the Mental Insight Foundation and the New York City Department of Education, BTS was introduced to New York City Department of Education school psychologists, guidance counselors, and social workers via two webinars. Click here to view the webinars!In addition to the webinars, 300 BTS packets were given to the participants who were eager to disseminate the lessons to their schools and staff. Results of the online survey were overwhelmingly positive with 100% reporting that they will be using BTS.

Additional survey comments included:

  • Statistics made me aware that most definitely, we have students struggling with someone they know and perhaps love, having a mental illness. I become aware of changes in behavior of children because teachers see it and report it; I am not necessarily made aware that a child is struggling with the issue.
  • All of the information was helpful and I will discuss it with my colleagues… I would like to plan for use with students, parents and staff.
  • The material will be presented in grade conferences.
  • It was a great workshop. I will share it with the principal, teachers and parents. I will use the skills with the children as well.
  • This presentation has made me much more aware of what may present in the elementary school.
  • I never considered the relationship of mental illness to bullying. I had frequently been told (by a school psychologist) that children in elementary school could not have major mental illness. This presentation has clarified that for me.
  • Excellent, wonderful, informative, appropriate to my job presentation.
    The material presented will be helpful for staff and parents at our school and especially in my work to help students and their families.

"This is great work and much needed to support schools, children and families. Thanks so much. I remain convinced that, 'Together, we can.'"

- Tracey L. Collins, Senior Director, Office of Youth Development New York City Department of Education Queens Integrated Service Center

Work with your community schools; use the internet to educate the educators!

Educate Parents and Students about BTS & Mental Illness

We continue to reach out to our local schools. This year NAMI Queens/Nassau volunteers spoke with local PTA’s, SEPTA’s (Special Education Parent Teacher Association) and students. At the Oceanside High School Human Relations Day Janet spoke to students in four classes (9th and 10th grade). The following is a thank you letter from Oceanside.

We appreciate you taking the time to talk to our students. The students, as well as teachers, have told us the day was both rewarding and enlightening. Due to your courage in sharing your stories, our students’ eyes have been opened to experiences they would not have otherwise encountered. Thank you for helping us achieve our goals for the day; we could not have done it without you. We look forward to being able to work with you next year at the twenty-fourth anniversary of Human Relations Day!

Reach out to your local schools; include parent and student groups. Offer to present a workshop.

Adapt this email for your PTA or SEPTA (Special Education Parent Teacher Association)

Before the age of 18 one out of ten children will develop a mental illness in need of treatment, but only one in five will get the needed care.
(Surgeon General’s Report 2001)

Tragically most parents learn about mental illness the hard way. Perhaps it’s that dramatic change in personality and behavior that is so out of line with the norm that they’re forced to seek help. For others a crisis develops that sends them to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Or most tragically of all it may be a suicide attempt or an actual suicide that makes families confront the reality of untreated mental illness.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Queens/Nassau is currently embarking on an effort to reach SEPTA’s in our area with our message of help and hope. We are fortunate to have parents willing to share their riveting stories with you. They have learned the hard way the value of recognizing the symptoms of mental illness early on, seeking help, and the important role NAMI can play in providing the needed support and education.

Mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are equal opportunity diseases. They affect people of all races and classes and are no-fault brain disorders. In the same way that people are born with a genetic propensity to develop heart disease, specific kinds of cancer, or diabetes they are also born with predisposition to develop psychiatric disorders. We don’t know yet with any certainty what triggers cause mental illness, but we do know that getting treatment as early as possible can dramatically affect the outcome.

NAMI is a nationwide non profit, grassroots, self-help and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of all those affected by severe mental illness. For information on NAMI Queens/Nassau visit www.namiqn.org or call NAMI Queens/Nassau at 516-326-0797.

For more information and/or to schedule a SEPTA 2010 presentation, contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx or xxx@xxx.com. Thank you in advance for bringing this important issue to your community.

Send emails and follow up with a phone call.

BTS Reaches a National TV Audience

Just in case you missed it, Lifetime TV, Joan Lunden’s Health Corner featured Lorraine Kaplan, BTS, and our 2009 NAMIWalks. Click here then push play to watch the video!

Mrs. USA Uses BTS to Change Minds and Hearts

This is how Dr. Gariane Gunter, Mrs. USA 2008, described her experience teaching elementary students about mental illness. 

"Educating people, especially children and adolescents about mental illnesses is a special interest of mine. I recently had the opportunity to teach BTS to the 5th graders of my home town as well as other schools across the nation. I was AMAZED by what the kids knew about a lot of things except mental illness!

I always wore my crown and banner, 'My Costume', as the kids call it and always started with the question, 'Where do mental illness come from?'  Their hands go up and they answered, 'You are born with them'. I then would say 'Great! What are some examples of mental illnesses?' Again their hands would go up, 'Diabetes, Cancer, Broken leg....'  It became very clear that they are blank slates when it comes to this topic.

There was one little girl that sat with perfect posture on the front row of the class who raised her hand and asked, 'Are mental illnesses a standard part of the fifth grade curriculum?'  I was speechless for a moment and then responded by telling her that in fact they are not, but that since they are receiving this information first, they will be the smartest fifth graders in the state!!  That response made her quite proud.

On our last meeting, the same little girl raised her hand and said, 'We read a story about Edgar Allen Poe and he was very poor, his wife was really sick and he couldn’t afford to buy her medicine. He has depression and I am going to tell Mrs. United States about it!'  I was so thrilled to hear that not only had she learned what was being taught but that she carried it with her, from the classroom into her life. What an incredible honor it has been to teach these children the truth about mental illness and open the door to ask for treatment if they should ever need it."

Reach out to local celebrities, ask for endorsements, and create partnerships.

Take Advantage of a Funding Opportunity - Deadline February 5th!

Reach out to your local school and collaborate on a grant to bring BTS materials and/or teacher training to your local school.

Through the Sprint Character Education Grant Program, the Sprint Foundation will award grants to school districts and individual schools to fund the purchase of resource materials, supplies, equipment and software that facilitates and encourages character education among K-12 students. With a national reach, the program is open to all US public schools (K-12) and US public school districts. Click here for more information!

Search for funding partners, they are out there! Contact Amy at btslessonplans@aol.com if you need assistance writing a grant.

South Carolina BTS Advocate Shares a Classroom Moment

Dear Mrs. Kaplan,

I finished the BTS lessons today with my class and will give out the questionnaires tomorrow. I just wanted to let you know how much my students enjoyed the stories and the game. They asked thoughtful questions and were intrigued to learn about mental illness. One of my students even felt compelled to share that her sister has obsessive compulsive disorder. I also wanted to let you know how much I learned while teaching the Breaking the Silence lessons. My mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year and these lessons actually taught me a lot about what she is going through.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful program with me and my students.

- Kristen

Spreading the Word

October 3, 2009, David Lauderdale a reporter for the Island Packet, Hilton Head and Bluffton South Carolina stated, “…NAMI Beaufort sent Boyleston into the Boys & Girls Club of Hilton head with its six week ‘Breaking the Silence’ program that educates young people with accurate, age appropriate information to end the stigma about mental illness. Cheryl Garner has done the same thing at Bluffton Boys & Girls club. They also are invited into the schools…”

Approach community groups and let your local media know about it!

Adelphi University Recognizes Janet and Lorraine

The Health Studies division of the Department of Health Studies, Physical Education and Human Performance Science selected Janet and Lorraine to be the recipients of the Rose Salisbury Beer Award for Outstanding Contributions to Community Health Education for 2009

“This award is given in recognition of Health Educators who have devoted themselves to meeting the health education needs and interests of the public, and have done so in an exemplary manner. Your outstanding service to the Long Island community more than meets the criteria for this award; therefore we would like to recognize you.”

Work with your local colleges and universities; bring BTS to future educators, social workers, guidance counselors, school psychologists…

Recent Articles

Washington Post: Why most schools don’t teach about mental illness, by Valerie Strauss

Parent Guide News, Breaking the Silence- Teaching Children about Mental Illness, by Lorraine Kaplan

Health News Digest, Mental Illness - 5 Tips for Parents of School Age Children, by Lorraine Kaplan

Contact your local schools and community groups; submit a press release or story about your BTS project to your local media; create partnerships; and network, network, network…

Amy Lax, Director of PR & Development,amylax@optonline.net

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2005 NAMI Queens/Nassau-BTS