Mental Health Awareness Month & CIS Mental Health Initiative

by Shubhra Endley, CIS Mental Health Director

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The mission of Communities In Schools of Houston (CIS) is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. This mission aligns with the World Health Organization’s definition of mental health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.   

Our CIS Student Support Specialists are found in early pre-k programs to community college campuses.  Currently, we are serving students ranging from ages 4 to 73 years of age. Every day our CIS team works on the following goals: we help students recognize their strengths, learn coping skills to manage stress and navigate life. Our ultimate goal – to help students to achieve their life dreams or aspirations and contribute to their communities.

Prevention services that promote wellness on a CIS campus can include activities such as a lunch time yoga group with students on a high school campus, sessions that teach mindfulness-based practices to help with stress management to college students, or a social skills group to enhance communication with peers and reduce conflict for 4th grade males. School-wide assemblies to discuss topics such as violence prevention or recognizing signs of suicide are examples of awareness and prevention activities provided by CIS staff.

CIS kicked-off this program year with professional development opportunities such as re-certification of all of our CIS staff in Mental Health First Aid and an ethical decision-making workshop. With these trainings and other skill enhancement workshops our staff remain current with best practices in the profession.

On many campuses, staffed with a CIS licensed mental health professional, we are able to provide individualized supportive counseling to students during the school day. In addition, for students with an acute need for mental health interventions, CIS staff through intensive case-management coordinated partnerships with other mental health agencies bring the needed services directly onto the campuses.  These services included facilitating support groups, or therapists serving the students through individual sessions.  Additionally, appropriate referrals (to address the multiple and complex challenges faced by students) are provided to students and/or their families in order to extend support services outside of the school.  Our CIS staff serve as members of the campus crisis teams and support students and their families by offering Walk-In Services daily.

As we observe Mental Health Month, we recognize the COURAGE of our students and their families who despite the stigma still attached to asking for help, especially mental health, DO IT anyway. Moving forward, we plan the expansion of the CIS Mental Health Initiative so that we may continue to reach more students and provide a safe place for them to talk and reach out for help and support.

CIS Houston