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Engaging teenagers in open discussions about their thoughts and feelings has never been an easy task

And doing so in a classroom setting is even harder.

So it’s completely understandable that in schools we struggle with teenage mental health prevention, and are often only able to address severe issues like anxiety, depression, bullying, and suicide, because we don’t have a way of knowing what’s really going on with students until it reaches these climaxes.

But we can actually prevent a lot of these issues from ever occurring if we establish a way for teenagers to have real conversations about their thoughts and feelings as a normal part of their schooling experience.

This is exactly what the Open Parachute Program addresses, and what makes it so unique and successful as a Government Endorsed middle and high school mental health intervention and prevention program

We are officially recommended on the ‘Be You’ National School Intervention Programs Directory, and that is just the beginning…

 

Open Parachute is built on the strength of peer-based learning

Watching teens talk about their struggles decreases stigma and encourages honest communication and reflection. This in turn builds resilience by changing self-defeating thought patterns, and increasing empathy and emotional processing tools. Here is a snapshot of the production style of our video-based curriculum program.

Our curriculum is comprised of 8 lessons delivered by teachers to their students through an online platform

Each lesson contains video-based interviews of real teens sharing their stories of mental health struggle, followed by skills-building partner exercises, class discussions, and journaling. Teachers facilitate these lessons, and engage in mental health learning alongside their students. We tailor our program to fit the needs of each individual school.

Teenagers engage with this content because it is relatable and interesting to them

The videos show real accounts of young people overcoming mental health struggles, and give students a practical understanding of how they can empower themselves in their own lives no matter what they are facing.

The program fosters true connection between students

Our curriculum breaks down barriers that contribute to bullying, social exclusion, and peer relational difficulties. The open discussions and classroom exercises in our program create a sense of community and support between students that connects them and makes their entire school experience more meaningful and enjoyable.

 

Our curriculum helps teenagers support each other through issues they would usually hide from their peers

  • Low self-esteem

  • Trauma

  • Abuse

  • Bullying

  • Friendship difficulties

  • Eating & body image issues

  • Depression

  • Self-harm

  • Loss & Grief

 

don’t just take my word for it…hear it directly from students:

 

“I really liked this program, because I have some hard times too, and this program taught me that it happens to everyone else on the planet too, and I am not the only one who is experiencing it”

“I liked how in the activities we got to express ourselves and how it created a safe space” 

“I liked the stories that were told by all the people that suffered from mental health and how they overcame it…it gives a sense of hope for anyone suffering from this”

“I liked the fact that we are normalising mental health issues among all students, and not making it sound like a rare disease”

“Until now, if I had concerns, I didn't talk about them to other people to get help, because I thought people would judge me, but I learned that actually they won’t. Also I learned how to deal with my feelings, and if I feel negatively, it is not bad. That is just one feeling in my thousands of feelings. So I don't have to be shameful even if I have some negative feelings”

“I gained confidence, knowing that other people struggle with stuff that I struggle with and that if they can overcome it, I can to”

“I learned how to maintain better mental health and I've been enjoying life a lot more”

“I think everyone should take this program at least once a year because it is good to know what you can do to help yourself or others”

 
 

But students aren’t the only ones who need support…Open Parachute also provides parent engagement and teacher wellness tools

 

teachers are equipped with skills and tools for managing mental health in classrooms

Teachers are provided with an initial program delivery training session; short audio recordings which accompany each lesson; and access to in-depth material relating to mental health in teens.

They are also given the opportunity to create more meaningful connections with their classes, which allows them to access the fullest potential - both personally and academically - of each and every one of their students.

 

We run additional professional development teacher training that promotes mental wellness in staff

Teachers explore ways of preventing burnout and managing stress at the same time as learning to support the mental health of their students. This training can be accessed in conjunction with the curriculum program or as a separate resource for teachers, school counsellors, schools, and teaching organisations.

 

PARENTs are also provided with practical psychological tools

Online videos and detailed blog posts are emailed to parents prior to each lesson. This empowers them with knowledge about the issues explored in class, and practical psychological tools for reinforcing this learning at home and establishing deeper relationships with their children built on a shared understanding of the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of adolescence.

 
Dr Hayley Watson (PhD, MA, MATP, Grad Dip, BA)

Dr Hayley Watson (PhD, MA, MATP, Grad Dip, BA)

Hi I’m Hayley, and I developed Open Parachute after my PhD research uncovered a new approach to bullying interventions

This approach is based on building skills of empathy, courage, and empowerment. Tools that I believe can and will change the world.

I’m a clinical psychologist and I have been creating and delivering intervention programs for youth and practitioners in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia for the past 15 years. My aim is to transform education systems worldwide so that we are fostering the real skills our youth need to be mentally healthy for the rest of their lives.

 

Open Parachute has a research partnership with Columbia University

Open Parachute programs are grounded in cutting-edge, evidence-based research on bullying interventions, mental health, and youth engagement. We are continually engaged in the ongoing validation of our programs to ensure best practices in our psychological intervention strategies.

 

Our curriculum is being run in schools in Canada, the US, and Australia, and we are rapidly expanding

Here is what Teachers are saying:

“My students were more engaged, their grades improved, and this program literally saved a student's life!"

“The Open Parachute lesson was not surface layer, it got straight down to the main issue and was based in reality. My students were surprised by how much they enjoyed it!”