1. Mental health promotion. This project's model programs and resources focus on creating school environments that foster participation and enjoyment for all children and are based on research in the areas of mental health promotion and positive psychology.1,2 Strategies that have been found to improve mental health include participation in enjoyable activities,3 using personal strengths, thinking optimistically, performing acts of kindness and expressing gratitude4 . Mental health promotion efforts also include creating supportive environments, reducing stigma and discrimination, and supporting the social and emotional learning (SEL) of all students.
2. Inclusion of students with disabilities and mental health challenges during all aspects of the school day and extracurricular after-school activities.
3. Integrated services in natural contexts. All programs developed and implemented for this project take place in natural school contexts (versus isolated therapy rooms) and involve integrated participation of students with and without disabilities and mental health challenges. Such integrated programming fosters social interaction and the development of friendships among students with and without disabilities.
4. Collaboration among all school personnel and parents. Integrated and inclusive programs require close collaboration among all relevant school personnel. Although this 3-year project is initiated by occupational therapists and initially focuses on the development of occupational therapists as change agents, years 2 and 3 will emphasize collaboration with interdisciplinary teams involving 'indigenous resources' within schools – other related service providers (speech language pathologists, physical therapists, school psychologists), lunch and recess supervisors, special and regular education teachers, para-educators, and physical and health educators to name a few. Integration of intervention strategies throughout the school day is critical for generalization of targeted skills.5
1 Barry, M. M., & Jenkins, R. (2007). Implementing mental health promotion. Edinburgh, Scotland: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
2 Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421.
3 Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 359, 1367-77.
4 Heller, D., Watson, D., & Ilies, R. (2004). The role of person versus situation in life satisfaction: A critical examination. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 574–600.
5 Atkins, M. S., Hoagwood, K. E., Kutach, K., & Seidman, E. (2010). Toward the integration of education and mental health in schools. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 37, 40-47.