According to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 1 in 5 Americans struggle with some form of mental illness. In Oregon, that number is 1 in 4, and the state’s suicide rate is one of the highest in the country. However, mental illness has largely been silent from conversations related to individual and societal success, but findings show just how crucial this component is to long-term health and creating opportunities for people to seek the support they need.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES), for example, found a correlation between all early childhood experiences on future health. Divorce, parental incarceration, homelessness and abuse are all directly related to a person’s likelihood to develop future challenges. A trauma-informed approach acknowledges that triggers to mental illness continue to affect our emotional well-being. However, the stigma attached to mental illness means that many suffer in silence or end up in major crisis, which leads to missed opportunities for prevention and valuable intervention, and even a decline in education, job performance, and overall physical health.

The Keep Oregon Well in Schools program creates a safe environment that promotes the discussion of mental health and provides a platform for adapting it to a multitude of social learning environments. By treating mental health as a truly integral piece of the general wellness puzzle, Keep Oregon Well not only acknowledges its importance, but gives it a resounding voice. Keep Oregon Well also aims to meet the community “where they are at” by taking part in activities, events, and partnerships that not only give people access to information about mental health, but also give them an opportunity to become part of the process.

In 2017, Keep Oregon Well kicked off our Mental Health Matters Conversation Series on college campuses and we were awarded a $100,000 grant from Providence Health to pilot our Keep Oregon Well in Schools radical community engagement model in Centennial and Gladstone School Districts. We are currently in the development phase of this work and will be expanding to other school districts throughout Oregon over the coming months and years.

Additionally, we offer community engagement strategies and trauma-informed trainings for school administrators and teachers at all stages of cultural and organizational development.

If you are interested in learning more about the Keep Oregon Well in Schools program, or to get involved, please contact Keep Oregon Well Resilience Director Caitlin Young at CYoung@TrilliumFamily.org