Employees from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) recently joined partner EVERFI on a classroom visit to Medicine Crow Middle School in Billings, Montana, as part of the Mental Wellness Basics program.
The hourlong session was attended by 70 seventh graders, who participated in two group activities that engaged the students and led to positive discussions.
BCBSMT provides Mental Wellness Basics at no cost to schools and students across Montana through the Big Blue Sky InitiativeSM. Mental health is one of the most important local and national health issues. Mental health is an important element of total health and wellness, and awareness and skill-building at younger ages has been shown to make a big difference.
“The partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield is a statewide sponsorship for EVERFI’s Mental Wellness Basics course,” said Sean Thomas of EVERFI. “It makes it possible for us to connect with the schools and really provide a short but very content-heavy course for them that gives them a foundation of mental wellness awareness and knowledge so that they have tools for moving through and navigating their life and for their mental health.”
The Mental Wellness Basics course offers educators proven, effective learning tools to engage their students and have meaningful conversations that can lead to lifelong health improvement. Since launching in 2018, Mental Wellness Basics has been used by nearly 1,500 students at 34 schools across Montana.
“The great thing about the EVERFI program and the partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the basic skills that it teaches are skills that students can pick up right in that moment and take away with them,” said Nikki Hofmann, principal of Medicine Crow Middle School. “They can go to their next class and maybe they heard a student share, ‘Wow, I use this breathing activity or I think this way or here is how I reframe that,’ and it gives them some basic skills that they can use at any time.”
After a warm-up exercise, the students were split into groups for two activities.
“In Montana, we do have a pretty hefty mental health issue,” Thomas said. “It’s an issue here where there is a lot of stigma around it (mental health) and the course talks about this a lot. One of the activities we did was specifically around destigmatizing that conversation because if kids are able to talk about it then they are able to get help and live much healthier lives.”
Students in one group learned about the importance of addressing the stigmas associated with mental health issues. When people put mental health first, it helps break the stigma and helps others have a positive mindset as well.
The other group worked on reframing self-talk. The course was designed to show students that their thoughts, emotions and actions are connected. The group learned the benefits of changing thinking from negative cycles to positive cycles and gave examples of how to reframe self-talk.
The two groups then switched activities midway through the session. The entire visit took just a little over an hour, but the impact was certainly felt.
“I’m humbled to be able to participate but the teachers and parents and kids themselves, they are the ones that really have the greatest impact,” said Dan Gray, a BCBSMT regional sales executive based in Billings. “To see them actually participate, because they are middle schoolers, it’s evident that this program has a great influence on them.”
For more information on BCBSMT’s Big Blue Sky Initiative, please visit the Big Blue Sky Initiative website.