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Parents and Teachers as Allies Continues to Expand

By Dana Markey, Program Coordinator, NAMI Child and Adolescent Action Center

NAMI recently hosted a "Training of National Trainers" to train additional NAMI leaders in key states and communities on Parents and Teachers as Allies, a two-hour, in-service mental health education program for school professionals.

NAMI leaders from Arkansas, California, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania were represented at the training. Thus far, NAMI leaders in 31 states have received training in Parents and Teachers as Allies and the program has been delivered in over 80 schools around the country within the past four years. Training in the program includes information on cultural competency and sensitivity and how to outreach to culturally diverse populations, including Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans.

In order to help facilitate the expansion of Parents and Teachers as Allies, NAMI has developed a promotional brochure for NAMI state and affiliate leaders active in the program to use to promote the program to schools.  The promotional brochure is available as a PDF in color and in black and white.

NAMI has also reprinted and updated the Parents and Teachers as Allies monograph that accompanies the program. The monograph can also be disseminated independently and includes information on signs of early-onset mental illnesses, understanding family reactions to mental illness, how schools and families can work together as allies, and resources for families and schools. To purchase the monograph, visit the NAMI Store. They are one dollar each or 50 cents if you order 250 or more. The monograph will be available in Spanish by the end of 2008.

The Parents and Teachers as Allies program focuses on helping teachers, administrators, school health professionals, families, and others in the school community better understand the early warning signs of mental illness and how best to intervene.  It also covers the lived experience of mental illness and how schools can effectively communicate with families about mental health related concerns.

The program has been introduced to culturally diverse communities around the country with outstanding results.  Evaluation results from the pilot sites show that the program helps school professionals recognize the early warning signs of mental illness and understand the importance of collaborating with families when mental illness exists. Results also show that school professionals are more aware of the emotional stress that families experience when a child has a mental illness and that they feel more compassionate and empathetic toward people living with a mental illness as a result of the Parents and Teachers as Allies program. Moreover, program feedback from school professionals and NAMI leaders delivering the program has been overwhelmingly positive and shows strong satisfaction with the program.

As the fourth and final year of the pilot phase for the Parents and Teachers as Allies program comes to end, NAMI plans to continue to promote the expansion of the program and develop additional resources to help NAMI leaders continue to deliver the program to culturally diverse communities.

If you are interested in implementing Parents and Teachers as Allies in your state or community or would like more information, please contact Bianca Ruffin, Program Assistant, or visit our website.