High School Confidential: Programs Build Support System for Teens

Teens on the lawnStudents at Palo Alto High School and Gunn High School are taking part in an innovative program designed to improve their understanding of mental health and to strengthen peer networks. The programs are part of Project Safety Net, supported in part by Packard Children’s, which encourages kids to identify signs of depression, seek and offer help, and expand their social connections.

Shashank Joshi“We’re creating a model of how a community can collaborate on school mental health and truly have an impact on such an important issue,” says Shashank Joshi, MD, director of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Program at Packard Children’s and a Project Safety Net executive committee member. “Our job is to help kids be the best they can be academically, socially, and as citizens.”

At Palo Alto High School, the More Than Sad initiative is a 90-minute program that includes a video that teaches teens how to identify and respond appropriately to depression. The program can be delivered in the classroom in one or two sessions and is portable, making it appealing to teachers.

At Gunn, Sources of Strength is a student-led support group called ROCK (Reach Out. Care. Know.) that enables peer leaders from different social groups deliver positive messages while empowering students to help friends who appear to be in distress.

“It’s about creating a climate change on the campus, so that it’s not only OK to get help for a friend, but it’s cool to do so,” Joshi says. “We make it easy for them by having a group of trusted adults they can go to.”

The programs, which launched in the 2011-2012 school year, seem to be making a difference, he adds, with more students taking advantage of available services.


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