Blue Envelope training helps meet students’ mental health needs
JAMESTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (Wood) — Ottawa County Schools are working to respond quickly and effectively when children struggle with mental health using Corewell Health’s Blue Envelope pilot program.
“Overall, we’re seeing a significant increase in not only the frequency and prevalence of mental health issues, but we’re also seeing acuity,” said Dr. Subodh Jain, a child psychiatrist at Corewell (formerly Spectrum Health). “People are getting sicker and children are facing much greater challenges with mental health problems both at school and at home in the last two to three years.”
“Persistent mental stress is a good predictor of mental illness in the future,” he said.
the Blue Envelope Program It was initially created to train hospital staff to treat and respond to suicidal patients. Jain said many school districts have heard about the training and have requested a similar unit for teachers and staff.
By teaching school staff how to safely de-escalate suicidal thoughts, Jain said hospitals may be able to reduce stigma and life-threatening behavior.
The Ottawa County Public Health Department and the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Coalition were among the first organizations to commission Blue Envelope training for schools. Since its inception, more than 14 provinces have chosen the free training module and more than 200 schools have participated in it.
“We are seeing pre- and post-pandemic students with mental health struggles,” said Melissa Bernard, student services coordinator for Hudsonville Public Schools. “It’s a real thing.”
The training introduces the SAFE method, which stands for Stay, Reach, Feelings and Eliminate. Once a student reveals suicidal thoughts, staff are taught to stay with the student, get help, validate feelings, and eliminate potentially fatal risks.
“In the last year, there have been about 1,000 Blue Envelope events — meaning where a child has expressed suicide,” said Jane. “Most of them were actually dealt with within the school system without having to escalate any further.”
While some students or Blue Envelope events have led families to seek outside help and prescriptions for possible anxiety and depression, the overall success has removed the stigma of mental health struggles, organizers say.
“It’s a normalization of the word suicide and it’s normal to ask the question and be direct,” Bernard said. “I think we often get around it because it seems like a very strong word. But if we’ve learned anything from our training with Corewell, it’s that asking these direct questions allows us to intervene early.”