Morris Educational Foundation partners for mental health training project

Thanks to a $21,000 grant from the Lauren & Emily Failla Foundation, all Morristown High School staff gathered to receive a full day of training led by facilitators from the Mental Health Association in New Jersey Inc.

Mental health is important at every stage of life. To provide support for Morristown High School students, staff and families, the Morris Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization, recently spearheaded a Mental Health Training Project.

During interactive, small-group sessions, staff learned how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health challenges among children and adolescents. Parents and community members also attended a parent education program at MHS covering an abbreviated version of the staff’s training. Conversations between facilitators and attendees revolved around how to support students.

“The Mental Health Training was one of the most helpful professional development opportunities in my 35 years as an educator,” Mark Manning, principal of Morristown High School, said. “The trainers were experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate in their presentations and in the activities in which we engaged. I feel that the training helped to validate much of what we as educators do naturally with students who are struggling and provided us with resources and strategies to respond in situations unfamiliar to educators. The feedback we received from staff was overwhelmingly positive. Our thanks to MEF and the Lauren and Emily Failla Foundation for their partnership and support that made this possible.”

These training sessions and staff development opportunities will act as the bedrock for a long-term investment in mental health support for the district community. The next phase will occur in the 2024-2025 school year, when district staff members will be certified to train peers to recognize and support mental health challenges in students.

“School years are difficult enough for children, but the impact of COVID, social media and the increasing suicide rate moved us to find ways to help through the LEFF,” Frank Failla said on behalf of himself and his wife, Kay Failla, founders of the Lauren & Emily Failla Foundation. “The Morris Educational Foundation was immediately responsive and worked diligently to address the needs of the district.”

The project represents a unique collaboration of strong community partners, including the Community Foundation of New Jersey-Mental Health Foundation Collaboration. Due to its magnitude and impact, the program will act as a pilot for other communities in the state and beyond in addressing mental health in schools.