Breaking the Silence (BTS)
Lake Success, New York
Breaking the Silence (BTS) is a nationwide educational program. Lesson plans, games, and posters for upper elementary, middle and high school classrooms educate students about the facts and myths of mental illness, teach tolerance, and promote early treatment. BTS explains the causes, symptoms, and warning signs of mental illness, and what a person can do to overcome the stigma and help others.
Despite the widespread impact of mental illness, there is a deafening silence in American classrooms when it comes to mental health issues. As noted on the BTS Web site, Students in health classes learn about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, cancer prevention, and how a healthy lifestyle can prevent cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, and other illnesses; but many graduate from high school without ever having had one lesson on mental illness. Part of the problem is a scarcity of age-appropriate curriculum materials for teaching students about mental illnesses.
Veteran teachers who are also National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) members and family members created three separate lesson plans, together with board games and posters, to teach upper elementary-, middle-, and high-school students about mental illnesses. Among the topics covered are: overcoming the stigma surrounding mental illness; recognizing the symptoms of mental illnesses; and realizing that mental illnesses are treatable, common, and nobodys fault. The curriculum includes both statistical information and personal stories that put a human face on mental illness.
Teachers in 50 States and six foreign nations have ordered the BTS instructional materials. Many who have used the curriculum have noted its positive impact upon students. One teacher remarked that after teaching the course materials, his students view and talk about mental illness with the same ease and sensitivity as cancer or heart disease. Another teacher reported that a student, after discussing the materials, convinced her mother to seek help for what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia.
For further information, contact Breaking the Silence, NAMI Queens/ Nassau, 1981 Marcus Avenue C117, Lake Success, NY 11042; phone: 516-326-0797; fax: 516-437-5785; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: www.btslessonplans.org.