According to PRWeb, the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) has created and initiated a program called “Schools for Hope”, which proves to help students understand and adapt hope, as well as better handle their emotions, and decrease anxiety among them. This program was developed by a group of experts and based on research conducted in the US that suggests hope can, in fact, be learned. Its ultimate purpose is to equip students, as well as their parents and educators, with the tools required to remain hopeful in even the most difficult times.

iFred worked with the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT) to first test the “Schools for Hope” program in primary and post primary schools in Northern Ireland. After initial analysis of the data showed the program was indeed successful in promoting mental wellness, the company is now looking for further partners to help expand the program through resources, reach, and funding.

Dr. Karen Kirby, the lead researcher on the project, presented the promising results of the program at the “Schools for Hope” Conference, which was hosted by the School of Psychology, at Ulster University, Magee Campus. She shared that in addition to adapting increased levels of hope, students “have developed improved coping skills and belief in themselves and abilities to regulate emotions and develop emotional resilience skills. Furthermore, the pilot findings indicate increased confidence in their abilities to problem solve, in addition to ultimately reducing hopelessness itself.” She continued on, claiming that these advancements mean “that these young people have learned life skills which will hopefully support them when facing life adversities, as they have inherently developed new tools which may prevent hopelessness from developing in the future.”

The study design utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods in order to analyze results of the new hope curriculum; this meant assessing student responses using standard measures as well as conducting focus groups to give children an alternate opportunity to share comments. The quantitative method involved collecting data before and after the 10-week “Schools for Hope” program. It showed statistically significant improvements in anxiety levels, emotional regulation levels, and reduced hopelessness among the younger participants, while providing significant improvements in coping and resilience among the older, post-primary school kids. The qualitative focus groups also showed positive findings: the primary school participants reported they believed in themselves, felt more positive, and developed helpful new skills, thanks to the program; and post-primary school participants better understood how to respond to their emotions and mental health in general, stating they believed that physical and mental health were equal in importance.

Marie Dunne, forerunner of the program and WHSCT mental health specialist, joined Kirby at the “Schools for Hope” Conference and acknowledged the importance of educating children on mental health: “The aim of this project is to equip young people with information, knowledge and skills that will give them the personal self-esteem to nurture healthy relationships with themselves and those around them to improve their quality of life. Above all, it will also teach them to have hope and additional skills of understanding and managing their own mental well-being and the tools with which to do so.”

So far, “Schools for Hope” and initiatives of the like prove effective. And as long as these programs continue to be initiated, Dunne can rest assured that youths will receive the education on mental well-being that they deserve and, more importantly, need.