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Feb 7, 2023

PAHO Launches Mental Health Work Book For Primary Schools

The Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, has a regional plan of action on mental health, including developing and implementing programs for promoting mental health. This morning PAHO launched its Promoting Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools handbook. The publication is a self-learning guide designed to train teachers, administrators, and others about implementing mental health literacy into daily school life. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Studies have found that fifty percent of lifelong mental health issues begin by the age of fourteen. Yet, most mental health initiatives focus on secondary education teachers, teenagers, and adolescents.


Dean Chambliss

Dean Chambliss, Sub-Regional Program Director, PAHO

As we know, prevention of emotional and behavioural disorders continues to be a key global public health priority. It is well documented that evidence-informed, psychological/behavioural and social approaches significantly contributes to positive mental health, reduction of risky behaviours, mental disorders, self-harm and, indeed suicide. Though existing studies have highlighted that over fifty percent of mental health problems begins in childhood, our observation reveal that most mental health initiatives tend to focus on secondary education teachers, teenagers and adolescents.”


According to PAHO, the region has a critical public health gap. The organization anticipates that launching its Promoting Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools handbook for primary schools will significantly decrease that gap.


Dean Chambliss

Children spend a good part of their daily lives in schools, therefore including initiatives aimed at improving mental health literacy during children’s time at school becomes a key strategy, particularly as it is imperative to establish the foundations of mental health, promote wellbeing, and socio-emotional development at an early age.”


Conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, behavioural problems, and depression are the most prevalent mental health conditions in children. In some cases, those diagnoses are combined. Increased mental health literacy within the region’s primary schools can help to decrease stigma and advance the understanding of teachers and students, says PAHO.


Renato Oliveira e Souza

Dr. Renato Oliveira e Souza, Mental Health Unit, PAHO

“Mental health literacy really decrease stigma around mental health conditions and increase the understanding of teacher, but also students, on how to optimize and maintain good mental health, and also to improve help seeking. We all know the quality of the environment where children and adolescence grow up shape their wellbeing and development, supportive parenting, a secure home life and a positive learning environment in school are the key factors in protecting mental well being. We all know that early negative experience, in home, school, or digital spaces, such as exposure to violence, mental illness of a parent or other care giver, poverty; they increase the risk of mental health condition. The school environment offers a unique opportunity for early identification, prevention and delivery of interventions.”


The handbook is designed for easy learning for the teacher and the student, with interactive illustrations from cover to cover. The knowledge and skills in the guide will equip all levels of educators with critical tools to support the mental health of students. They can manage difficult classroom behavior, and promote students’ well-being and academic success.


Marc Laporta

Dr. Marc Laporta, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University

“I do want to highlight that the handbook’s title is promoting wellbeing and mental health. So, we are talking about recognizing mental illness and learning to do something about it. But also, the handbook is aimed at promoting mental health, which is much more than just not having a mental illness. It is really developing ways of interacting that are going to be useful as ways of living in the world in an adaptive way. And that is what well being is and mental health is.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.


If you would like a copy of the Promoting Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools Handbook, the publication can be downloaded from the PAHO website. 

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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