From the President
Typical or Troubled?
Psychiatric News
Volume 45 Number 17 page 3-3

Many of you may not be aware of some of the wonderful educational programs for the public that have been developed and sponsored by APA's American Psychiatric Foundation. These programs will be continued in the new 501(c)3 foundation that I'll tell you about in the next issue. One of these unique efforts has been established to assist schools in their efforts to work with teens.

As you know, adolescence can be a difficult time for many teenagers. But how might a teacher or coach (or even a parent) know the difference between typical teen issues and behavior that could signal a more serious problem? The foundation's program known as "Typical or Troubled?" was established to help teachers and other school staff identify troubled teens and provide guidelines for talking to them and ways to refer them for appropriate help. Research has consistently shown that adolescents with mental health problems who received appropriate treatment have improved academic achievement and increased test scores.

The program capitalizes on the fact that school personnel play an important role in advancing teen mental health. They see teens every day, observe teens over time, and are aware of teen behavior. Schools are an ideal place for a coordinated effort that focuses on understanding and improving teen mental health and involves educators, families, and mental health professionals.

"Typical or Troubled?" is designed for school personnel (teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, etc.) to raise their awareness of mental disorders in adolescents. It was developed in collaboration with parents, teachers, school counselors, principals, school psychologists, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and others in the school community. The program includes a PowerPoint presentation with scripted notes for various presenters, including a mental health professional; a brochure; an instruction guide; a planning document focused on best practices for implementing the program; evaluation forms; and technical assistance.

Since counselors, teachers, and other school staff see students every day, they are uniquely positioned to help troubled teens gain access to mental health services. The program includes detailed information for them on the warning signs that may signal mental health problems in adolescents. The teen years are complex, and even normal adolescents may display alterations of mood, distressing thoughts, anxiety, and impulsive behavior. Of course, parental involvement is crucial. The program provides guidance to school representatives about how to inform parents about their child's behavior in school and discuss resources available to them.

The process for referring an adolescent to appropriate help when signs of trouble have been identified varies for different schools and school districts, and the educational effort is tailored to the needs of the particular school and teacher population. To date, the program has been used in more than 234 urban, rural, and suburban schools and educated and trained more than 25,000 teachers and other school personnel who are connected to 335,000 students.

The American Psychiatric Foundation, headed by former APA President Richard Harding, M.D., is the philanthropic and educational arm of APA. Its mission is to advance public understanding of mental illnesses. As the "Typical or Troubled?" program shows, the foundation promotes awareness of mental illnesses and the effectiveness of treatment, the importance of early intervention, access to care, and the need for high-quality services and treatment through a combination of grants, programs, research funding, and awards.

Although this program exists through the foundation, many of us may be in a position to help local schools become aware of this resource. As a parent myself, I am often consulted by school officials and parents of my daughter's friends about concerning behavior among teens or potential referrals. By being aware of "Typical or Troubled?" we can each help educate those around us about the potentially worrisome behaviors and facilitate access to treatment for our friends, acquaintances, and coworkers.

More information about the "Typical or Troubled?" grant program is posted at <www.psychfoundation.org/OurPrograms/TypicalorTroubled.aspx>. More information about the foundation is posted at <www.psychfoundation.org/>.blacksquare

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