UCSB Researchers Study Effectiveness of Innovative Program to Help Youth Learn About Mental Health

Ann Lippincott knew nothing about mental illness when her daughter, just out of college, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Lippincott educated herself quickly, however, and has since devoted her time and energy to teaching others about mental illness, with the hope of reducing the stigma too often associated with it. Lippincott, an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of California (UC) Santa Barbara's (UCSB’s) Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, worked on behalf of the Mental Wellness Center in Santa Barbara to develop “Mental Health Matters,” an innovative, interactive curriculum for sixth-graders that was introduced to Santa Barbara-area schools nine years ago. The series of five, one-hour lessons is integrated into the sixth-grade Language Arts curriculum. Today, “Mental Health Matters,” a program of the Mental Wellness Center, is in place in 35 classrooms in schools in Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Buellton—all in California-- helping 11- and 12-year-old children learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of six major mental illnesses: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and stress disorders, major depression, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. The goal is to increase the students' understanding of mental illness, reduce the associated stigma, and share wellness practices. Until now, mental health advocates and teachers at the local schools thought -- and hoped -- it was making a difference, but they only had anecdotal evidence to that effect. Enter Hannah Weisman, a doctoral student in the Department of Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology at UCSB, and part of the “Mental Health Matters” teaching team. Weisman and her graduate advisor, Maryam Kia-Keating, Ph.D.
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