TRAILS to Wellness is coming to the Monroe County Intermediate School District to help Middle College students support their mental health.
TRAILS is an acronym for Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students.
TRAILS communication specialist Ollila Meredith said TRAILS was created by the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry to equip schools with the resources to provide and sustain evidence-based mental health support to their students.
The program was initially created in 2013 to address a call for help from Ann Arbor area schools.
“The schools had contacted the Depression Center at the University of Michigan and said they felt like they were drowning,” Meredith said. “Their students were demonstrating a level of mental health need – both in frequency and severity – that staff did not feel equipped to handle.”
According to the TRAILS website, nearly 50 percent of adolescents suffer from mental illness but only 20 percent receive effective treatment.
TRAILS has trained 236 professionals across 370 schools in Michigan since including public schools across Monroe County such as the Monroe County Middle College.
“Even before we knew this pandemic was coming and we’d be shut down, this is already something we had planned on doing,” said Robert Krueger, principal of Monroe County Middle College.
To fulfill the need for mental health support, TRAILS trains school staff with TRAILS coaches, and mental health providers specially trained in Cognitive Behavioral Theory and mindfulness.
“TRAILS pull from the most current research when developing or recommending outside resources and review/revision of materials is ongoing,” Meredith said in an email.
TRAILS offers a variety of programs, including TRAILS SEL and TRAILS CBT.
TRAILS SEL, or Social and Emotional Learning, provides 20 short lessons for teachers to provide for their students. These lessons available in four bands from kindergarten to 12th grade.
These lessons include talking points, student activities and more to help instructors support their student’s mental wellbeing.
TRAILS CBT, on the other hand, offers a one day professional training regimen for mental health staff on Cognitive Behavioral Theory and mindfulness.
After being trained in Cognitive Behavioral Theory, TRAILS pairs school staff with coaches for 15 weeks to help them retain these clinical strategies to use independently after training.
“It is well documented that brief professional development workshops do not lead to sustained improvements in clinical knowledge or behavior, therefore the TRAILS approach provides schools with training as well as resources and extensive implementation support,” Meredith said.
Krueger said because TRAILS implementation into the MCMC has only recently begun, the demand for training is unclear.
“The demand might be huge, and we might have to run multiple sessions,” Krueger said. “The demand might be almost nothing and we might have to try to pull teeth.”
Since COVID-19 has pushed most schools into an online format, TRAILS has created online resources to help a wider audience.
These online resources can be found on the TRAILS website at www.trailstowellness.org/materials/resources/covid-19-resources.