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October 1, 2015
Vol. 73
No. 2

Double Take

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Relevant Reads

The Teacher's Guide to Student Mental Health by William Dikel (Norton, 2014)
"Teachers play a pivotal role in children's mental health," writes William Dikel, child and adolescent psychiatrist. The odds are that every classroom has at least one student with a mental health disorder, so it's imperative that teachers have a basic understanding of children's mental health issues and the services they can receive in school. Dikel provides useful information about the major mental health issues affecting children and adolescents—including anxiety, depression, autism, oppositional defiant disorder, and psychotic disorders. With plentiful concrete examples, he shows how these disorders can be identified, diagnosed, and treated, and how teachers can work with administrators, social workers, psychologists, counselors, and nurses to help ensure the success of students with mental health issues.

Research Alert

Social and Emotional Learning: A Sound Investment?

Most educators intuitively believe that social and emotional learning (SEL) programs can improve students' lives. But can schools justify the financial investments such programs require? Help may come from a study conducted by the Center for Cost-Benefit Analysis, which compares the costs of these six well-known SEL programs with their long-term economic benefits: The 4Rs Program, Positive Action, Life Skills Training, Second Step, Responsive Classroom, and Social and Emotional Training.
The analysis calculated the per-student costs of the programs in terms of personnel, materials and equipment, facilities, and other inputs. It calculated the economic pay-off by looking at how the programs' research-documented benefits relate to smoking, teenage pregnancy, child abuse, asthma, criminality and other behaviors that are costly to society, as well as lifelong earnings.
The results of the analysis were striking: "Each of the six interventions for improving SEL shows measurable benefits that exceed its costs, often by considerable amounts." For example, the cost of implementing the 4Rs Program for 100 students was $68,000, whereas the economic benefit was $832,000. Across all six programs, the study found that "identified benefits outweigh the costs by a factor of 11:1."
The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning is published by the Center for Cost-Benefit Analysis at Columbia University Teachers College.


A Crash Course on the Brain

John and Hank Green, known on YouTube as the Vlogbrothers, have worked with subject-matter experts to create a series of Crash Courses for teachers and students to use in and out of class.
Hank Green's 40-episode psychology course introduces viewers to historical and current research into how the mind works. Each video consists of a fast-paced lecture of about 10 minutes punctuated by animations, visual aids, and pop-culture references. (Where on the emotional spectrum were you when Harry Potter bested Voldemort?) Students—and teachers—who want to learn more about emotional health can check out the episodes "Feeling All the Feels," "Emotion, Stress, and Health," and "Getting Help," as well as episodes dealing with specific emotional and psychological disorders.

Online Only

A Curriculum That Teaches Hope

According to the International Foundation for Research on Education and Depression (iFRED), the main predictor of suicide isn't loneliness, life losses, or trauma—it's hopelessness. So iFRED has created "Schools for Hope," a free curriculum for school-age students that explores what hope is (including how it ties into brain structures) and teaches kids to regulate their emotions, connect to a purpose in their lives, and stay calm and optimistic during stressful times.
Any educator can access the self-led, 10-lesson curriculum and materials. Besides the 10 core lessons, there are instructions for workshops on "Movies for Hope," "Artwork for Hope," and more. The curriculum is geared to a 5th grade level (and is being piloted with 5th graders in several schools) because research shows a rise in suicide attempts among 6th graders, but iFRED plans to expand it to other age groups.

Numbers of Note

Mental health diagnoses for kids are increasing
8.1 Percentage of U.S. children's visits to a pediatrician in 2010 that resulted in a mental health diagnosis.
10.5 Percentage of U.S. children's visits to a pediatrician in 2013 that resulted in a mental health diagnosis.
… especially for boys.
14.7 Percentage of boys' visits to a pediatrician that resulted in a mental health diagnosis in 2013.
8.2 Percentage of girls' visits to a pediatrician that resulted in a mental health diagnosis in 2013.
Source: From a survey by athenaNet, reported in an October 28, 2013, blog post by athenaResearch titled "Data Points to Behavioral Health as a Growing Challenge for Pediatricians." The survey looked at pediatrician visits by children 6–17 years old (2.8 million visits) between July 2009 and June 2013 and used claims data to see whether a mental health diagnosis was made that visit.


"The brain will never again be as plastic as it is during adolescence."
Laurence Steinberg

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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