Teaching Hope to Prevent Suicide, One Child At A Time

 

Can you teach children how to have hope?

Schools for Hope

That is the question we at the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) set out to answer several years ago when we began work developing a new hope curriculum.

schoolsAccording to a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1 out of 9 children self-reported a suicide attempt before graduating high school, with forty percent of those children in grade school. That same study found that suicide attempt rates rose steeply at age 12 — around sixth grade — and peaked two to three years later.

We challenged ourselves to devise a way to combat this hopelessness – the primary predictor of suicide and #1 symptom of depression.

Our solution? Schools for Hope, a free educational curriculum to prevent youth suicide by giving ANYONE – parents, students, educators, group leaders – the necessary learning tools and lifesaving skills to find and maintain hope.

Teaching children the importance of caring for their mental health is crucial to their emotional wellSchools for Hope Imagebeing and quality of life. The program is designed to give children the tools to handle life’s challenges and empower them to become their most vital selves. As a result of the research pointing towards a rise in suicide attempts among 12-year-olds, the program is designed specifically to reach and equip children with mental health tools prior to challenges that may arise in sixth grade.

Schools for Hope uses a research-based curriculum of lessons, stories and activities to explore the concrete actions a person can take to create his or her own hopeful attitude. The program educates students on the importance of emotional health and wellbeing, how to get their brain into a hopeful state, meditation and deep breathing techniques. It teaches children how to define hope, explore and define the meaning of ‘success,’ and practice emotional self-regulation techniques. In addition, Schools for Hope incorporates lessons about the biology of the brain and how students can connect their passion and purpose in life.

The program is free and available to any interested school, community group, after school program or nonprofit. It comes with comprehensive instructions that make it easily self-led, so the costs associated with implementation are low.

For interest in testing or implementing Schools for Hope, please email schoolsforhope@ifred.org or visit the website to download the free lesson plans. The site also includes tools and support items for teachers and educators, as well as research on the program and information on how the curriculum fits with current social and emotional learning standards mandated in several states.

Dogs Teaching Adults How to Teach Kids to Read

Some fantastic research has shown that the benefits of dogs can go beyond being good friends – they can help kids learn how to read.  This article goes into detail about how, but a University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine did research on kids reading to dogs vs. kids not reading to dogs, and overall effect on reading.   I think it would behoove us adults to learn from the techniques used by the dogs, so that we can be as effective (or better) than our four-legged friends.

The reasearch showed that kids reading to dogs had both improvements in both fluency and speed of reading.  How did this happen with kids?  The children reported:

  • The dogs made them feel more relaxed
  • The dog didn’t care or judge them if they made mistakes
  • It was more ‘fun’

Kids reported a boost in self-confidence, worth, and esteem.  So while this is fantastic research about dogs and the benefit of animals on health and wellbeing, I think it also should serve as a lesson to other kids or adults teaching reading or other life skills; be patient and non-judgemental.  Perhaps the dogs in this study are not just teaching kids how to read – they are teaching people how to treat kids learning to grow up in this world.  In any event, enjoy!