Wednesday, January 23, 2013

CONTACT: John Schuster
Miami-Dade County Public Schools


The American Psychiatric Foundation and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, in collaboration with Judge Steven Leifman, will be implementing the “Typical or Troubled?” training program for all public junior high and high schools in the Miami-Dade system. The program will train over 500 school psychologists, social workers and guidance counselors on early identification of potential mental health problems, will educate and engage parents and will ultimately link students with mental health services when needed.

“Typical or Troubled?” is an educational program that helps school personnel distinguish between typical teenage behavior and evidence of mental health warning signs that would warrant intervention. The program includes culturally sensitive technical assistance for school personnel on best practices and educational materials in English, Spanish and forthcoming in Haitian-Creole.  So far the program has been used in hundreds of schools and school districts to educate more than 40,000 teachers, coaches, administrators, and other school personnel across the country.

Nationwide, approximately 15 million children and youth between the ages of 9 and 17 have diagnosable psychiatric disorders, with about 90% of those children exhibiting early warning signs by age 15.  More than 60% of young people with mental health disorders are not getting adequate treatment, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults 15-24 years old.

Judge Steven Leifman, JD, who is a member of the APF board of directors, said that “This program will be a call to action to bring the whole community together to focus on mental health and fight the stigma that is furthered by the silence that so often shrouds mental health issues in mystery. The school is the perfect place to bring students, parents, teachers and other school personnel together and ultimately to connect troubled youth to the help they need.”

Alberto M. Carvalho, Superintendent of Schools, Miami-Dade County, said, “If we are going to seriously address the problem of mental illness, it will take the whole community linking hands and focusing on the teen years, when so many mental disorders first emerge. The Typical or Troubled? program is the best way we know of to do that.”

The importance of parental involvement was emphasized by Paul T. Burke, Executive Director of APF, who said, “Parents can miss the signs of early mental illness during the teenage years, when young people can be moody or rebellious. How do you tell when a teenager’s behavior is cause for concern? This program, by educating parents, helps inoculate them against denial when their child is truly troubled, and gives them strategies for how to respond.”

The partnership of APF and Miami-Dade County Public Schools will take a proactive approach to tackle the issue through partnerships and targeted training that hone in on the identification and effective treatment of mental health problems before those problems manifest through increased truancy, substance abuse, violence or tragedy. M-DCPS will implement the multi-pronged initiative, which includes:

  • Training of school professionals in late February in the Typical or Troubled? program.
  • Implementation in schools, including the education of teachers and students.
  • Parent education through workshops and a public awareness campaign. The campaign will involve providing information on what signs to look for, strategies for communicating with adolescents about mental health issues, how to address concerns, and where to go for help.
  • A community summit on Youth Mental Health Issues in the early Spring to bring together mental health providers, community-based organizations and academic experts in mental health fields to focus on resources for early identification of at-risk youth and enhance the timely implementation of prevention interventions and strategies.

To increase crisis support resources in M-DCPS, counseling professionals will complete a nationally recognized comprehensive crisis intervention and recovery training program beginning this month.  This is part of an overarching effort to expand the Crisis Team First Responders for district-wide support.

The American Psychiatric Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the American Psychiatric Association, a national medical specialty society whose physician members specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, including substance use disorders. Visit the APA at

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