Three local schools participating in new program that educates students about mental health issues

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More than 1,300 students in Kern County will participate in a new program focused on educating them about mental health issues. 

Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services has partnered with The Live Network to bring its mental health curriculum Prepare U to three schools: Taft Union High School and Buena Vista Continuation High in Taft as well as Thomas Middle School in Lost Hills. The program begins in January. 

“We are very excited to be able to bring mental health curriculum to our youths in Kern County,” said Christina Rajlal, a supervisor with Kern BHRS. “This program gives students the tools to be able to identify mental health challenges and create emotional resilience in the process.”

As part of the 15-session program, students in eighth grade and higher will learn about issues such as addiction, abuse, depression and bullying. The program aims to help reduce students’ stress and anxiety, increase support and help them cope with their experiences.

“The ultimate goal of Prepare U is to reduce suffering among young people and break unhealthy survival patterns that adversely affect them for the rest of their lives,” said Ryan Beale, founder and CEO of The Live Network. “The Prepare U experience prides itself on redefining mental health.”

Teachers, administrators and other employees from the participating schools will undergo training on the program starting tomorrow, Beale said.

The new program comes as research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that as many as 1 in 5 children experience a mental health disorder each year. 

Rajlal said the program is flexible, as the sessions can be completed back-to-back or spaced out based on availability, as long as the program is completed before the end of the school year. 

The agency began working toward implementing the pilot program since last spring, after an administrator learned about Prepare U during a national conference and brought back information about the curriculum. 

In May, BHRS began talks with school districts about the program. While Rajlal said many expressed an interest in Prepare U, only a few were comfortable enough to launch it during the current school year.

“We wanted to get it launched this school year, which was challenging for some districts,” she said. “We wanted to do the pilot program with schools that were ready to go right away.”

If the pilot program goes well, Rajlal said the plan is to expand it to other schools in the county that have expressed an interest in the program but wanted more time to prepare. 

“We’re really excited about the potential of this curriculum,” Rajlal said. “We’re trying to work in conjunction with schools to make tools and resources available to students who need them and identify what the mental health needs are.” 

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