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Mentally Healthy School Crisis Prevention & Intervention Training

December 12, 2014

Guest post by Brian Lazzaro, Stephen E. Brock, and Kevin Dwyer, National Association of School Psychologists

It is widely recognized that schools play a critical role in crisis prevention, intervention, response, and recovery. Crises affecting schools range from natural disasters, terrorism, and pandemic disease to school and community violence, the death of students or staff members, economic distress, and suicide. It is expected that today’s schools are prepared to meet the needs of their students, staff, and families, and to also collaborate with local community agencies. Most schools now have routine crisis drills safety and security procedures. And many are developing mental health promotion, prevention and intervention policies and resources within their plans. School systems are developing comprehensive crisis plans that best fit their school community, and effectively implementing crisis plans is strongly dependent upon training and resources. Thus, training and preparedness are critical to effective response and recovery efforts.

Training in crisis prevention and intervention has evolved over the past decades of actual prevention and interventions experiences such as responses to Hurricane Andrew, Columbine Newton and other school shootings. Training has moved in the direction of being manualized to best address to wide variety of prevention and intervention scenarios.  This effort was spearheaded by the National Association of School Psychologists’ National Emergency Assistance Team that volunteers to respond to requests for support, particularly for post-vention services. Out of this experience NASP developed the PREPaRE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention Training Curriculum (2nd ed., PREPaRE). This training curriculum enables schools to make their prevention/intervention plans actionable and effective by having knowledgeable crisis intervention team leadership imbedded in their schools. The curriculum addresses both safety and the critical emotional and mental health aspects of a crisis for the whole school community, students, staff, families and responders. 

PREPaRE is designed to provide school-employed mental health professionals and other educators with training on how to best fill the roles and responsibilities generated by their membership on school safety and crisis response teams. This training enables teams the skills to conduct psychological triage and deliver a multi-tiered approach to crisis response. To meet the unique mental health needs that can arise as the result of a crisis, crisis intervention avoids a “once size fits all approach,” and is based upon demonstrated need with social supports serving as a universal foundation to aid recovery. Effective crisis plans are also fully integrated into community emergency response efforts and clearly communicated to staff, parents, and community leaders.

Crisis prevention is key and school safety and crisis response efforts are best integrated to facilitate timely and effective crisis prevention and response across the continuum of threats that can undermine student and staff well-being. This includes bullying prevention, addressing risky student behaviors, suicide prevention, and threat assessment. This training aligns ongoing safety and mental health programming, with multi-tiered systems of support.

PREPaRE includes two separate, yet complimentary workshops. Participants can sign up for one or both workshops, which can be taken in any order. In addition, it offers Training of Trainers (ToT) workshops for individuals interested in becoming instructors themselves, and enables school districts to build local capacity for ongoing professional development at minimal cost which facilitates sustainability. The following is a brief overview of the two PREPaRE workshops.

  • WORKSHOP 1 – Crisis Prevention and Preparedness: Comprehensive School Safety Planning is a 1-day workshop that provides school mental health professionals, administrators, security officers, and other educators, with knowledge and resources important to establishing and sustaining comprehensive, ongoing school safety and crisis prevention, mitigation, and preparedness. Making use of existing personnel, resources, and programs, this model can be adapted to a given school’s needs and size. Specific attention is given to developing, exercising and evaluating safety/crisis teams and plans, and integrating school and community crisis response personnel. Also addressed are issues associated with the media, technology, special needs students, culture, and memorials. Training reinforces the importance of positive school climate, student behavior and academic functioning, student resilience, and school staff crisis response capabilities.
  • WORKSHOP 2 – Crisis Intervention and Recovery: The Roles of School-Based Mental Health Professionals is a 2-day workshop that provides school mental health professionals and other school crisis intervention team members with the knowledge necessary to meet the mental health needs of students and staff following school-associated crises. From a comprehensive review of the literature, this workshop provides guidance on how to prevent and prepare for psychological trauma, help to reaffirm both the physical health of members of the school community and students’ perceptions that they are safe and secure, evaluate and conduct psychological triage, respond to the psychological needs of school community members through a multi-tiered approach, and examine the effectiveness of school crisis intervention and recovery efforts. This workshop is an excellent resource for educators who provide mental health crisis intervention services.

Schools are integral to an overall community crisis response in terms of providing a safe haven, disseminating information, identifying individuals at risk, providing mental health services, linking individuals with community services, supporting long-term recovery, and generally serving as a focus of normalcy in the face of trauma. Participants who complete the PREPaRE curriculum gain the knowledge and confidence to complete these tasks and to engage in crisis response and recovery.

For more information about NASP’s PREPaRE curriculum, click here

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