Palm Beach District School elementary certified school counselors will participate in professional development training on a new mental health curriculum for students in grades 4 and 5.   The program, “Breaking the Silence:  Teaching the Next Generation about Mental Illness”, is designed to reduce the stigma that prevents many students and their parents from seeking help.  The training will be provided by curriculum co-authors Janet Susin and Lorraine Kaplan of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Queens/Nassau, New York. The training will take place Thursday, September 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 12 Noon at Keiser University in West Palm Beach.  


The Breaking the Silence program consists of six 30-minute sessions centered on several stories and guided discussions with counselors and teachers highlighting facts about mental illness.  It has been shown that the program serves to foster understanding and replaces stigma with compassion.  Students will be sensitized to the pain caused by making fun of people who have mental illness, and will learn to relate it to other physical illnesses.

The U.S. Surgeon General reports only 20 % of youth with mental illnesses are identified and receive treatment.   Untreated mental illness is linked to behavior problems such as school failure, substance abuse, dropout, bullying and suicide.  The Breaking the Silence training will assist certified school counselors to recognize early warning signs of mental illnesses and to locate information on available services. 

“Mental health is essential to learning and safety at home and at school.  All aspects of social and emotional development must be respected and taught,” said Rita Thrasher, Chair of the Palm Beach County Action Alliance for Mental Health.  “This curriculum educates the school staff to reach more children and families in need of understanding and services. This is an established program that addresses a public health crisis.  The silence and stigma around mental health must end.” 

Breaking the Silence is an educational program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Queens/Nassau.  It represents a commitment to helping people with mental illness get the treatment, respect and economic opportunities they deserve.  The Palm Beach County Action Alliance for Mental Health worked in partnership with the Single School Culture Initiatives of the School District of Palm Beach County to introduce this program in Palm Beach County.  Instructional materials are provided by the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation.

For more information please contact Sean Martin, Regan Communications at 561-703-5394.