Jamestown TWP. — Schools in Ottawa County use Corewell Health’s pilot Blue Envelope program to help children respond quickly and effectively when they’re struggling with mental health.
Subodh Jain, M.D., child psychiatrist at Corewell (formerly Spectrum Health) said: “In the last couple of years, people are getting sicker and children are facing mental health issues both at school and at home.”
“Continuous psychological stress is a good predictor of future mental illness,” he said.
The Blue Envelope program was originally created to train hospital personnel to deal with and respond to suicidal patients. Jain said several school districts had heard about the training and requested similar modules for teachers and staff.
By teaching school personnel how to safely mitigate escalating suicidal thoughts, hospitals may be able to reduce stigma and life-threatening behavior, Jain said.
The Ottawa County Department of Public Health and the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Coalition were the first organizations to request Blue Envelope training for schools. Since its inception, over 14 counties have opted for free training modules and over 200 schools have participated.
Melissa Barnard, Student Services Coordinator at Hudsonville Public Schools, said: “It’s real.”
Training teaches the SAFE method of staying, accessing, feeling, and excluding. When a student reveals suicidal thoughts, staff are taught to stay with the student to access help, validate emotions, and eliminate mortal risk.
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“Last year, we had about 1,000 blue envelope events, which meant that children expressed suicidal thoughts,” Jain said. “Most of them were actually handled within the school system and didn’t need to be escalated further.”
While some students and Blue Envelope events have led families to seek outside help and seek prescriptions for anxiety and depression, their overall success has led to the stigma of mental health struggles. has been removed, organizers say.
“It’s normalizing the word suicide, normalizing asking questions and being outspoken,” Bernard said. “I think we often avoid it because it feels like a very strong word. It means you can.”