West Bloomfield students complete new mental health curriculum

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published January 12, 2018

WEST BLOOMFIELD — West Bloomfield High School became the first high school in the United States to complete the pilot mental health curriculum, Prepare U, which was created by Therapy.Live.

Two hundred ninth-grade students at WBHS participated in the program, a 15-lesson experimental curriculum focusing on mental health. The program goes along with the high school’s existing health curriculum. 

“As a high school, we failed to live up to our mission statement, which is, ‘Educate students to be their best in and for the world,’” said WBHS Principal Patrick Watson. “When it came to mental health, like so many other schools, we checked a box — we had an assembly. ... In all honesty, we really did nothing.” 

The West Bloomfield community has dealt with five student suicides in the past three years, said Watson. He said he felt like the school and administrators could do more to help prevent them, but they weren’t sure how to begin. 

“We needed to find a way to prepare (students) to be the best person they can; (we needed to) provide them with some sort of coping skills for when there is a setback,” said Watson. “We were doing absolutely nothing to prepare them with what is going to happen in life.” 

Watson was in touch with Ryan Beale, founder of Therapy.Live, who developed the Prepare U curriculum. Beale, a WBHS graduate, and his team wanted to create a program that could act as a stand-alone course or be integrated into a pre-existing health course. 

“When we connected, (Watson) told me about the five suicides,” said Beale. “It was extremely personal for me: I lost a brother to suicide. I struggle with (mental health), and I think everyone struggles with it at some point.” 

The program teaches students how to get to the root of mental health issues and how to prevent unhealthy coping patterns from emerging. 

“We created an experiential program where students can go through the process of having these feelings. They learn the tools they can use now and in the future on how to deal with them and what they can do.” 

The Prepare U program reportedly has been endorsed by the president of the American Psychological Association. Beale said that the team at Therapy.Live is doing long-term research around the program and is excited to see where it goes. 

This upcoming semester, 200 more WBHS students will complete the five-week curriculum. 

For more information about Prepare U and Therapy.Live, visit www.therapy.live.