The Success of the FIRE Within program has led to frequent requests for mental health and suicide prevention programs at the middle school level. Because the FIRE Within is a high school program and does not meet the needs of a middle school audience, CJSF launched an investigation of middle school student needs around mental health and suicide prevention in order to design an appropriate program.
Most teen suicide prevention programs educate teens about warning signs and where to get help but lack any relevant hands-on, active participation or leadership-building activities.
When the FIRE Within program began five years ago, it was an innovative program to address suicide prevention in high schools. Today, the FIRE Within continues to be the only program that incorporates hands-on, activity-based suicide prevention curricula through the lens of entrepreneurship.
There is a significant need for upstream mental health education in middle school. The pathway to suicide often begins in the pre-teen and teen years with thoughts and suicidal behaviors and suicidal behaviors is increasing in younger age groups. There are very few programs designed specifically for middle school students. A program serving middle school students must incorporate coping skills, problem-solving, mental health literacy, social skills, emotional regulation, and reduction of suicidal and/or self-injury behavior. The ultimate goal of providing middle school students with this programming is to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide.
The Ignite program will utilize the outcomes, learning techniques, and information that work for the FIRE Within, while incorporating more technological components to appeal to middle school students. Not only is the Ignite program innovative amongst suicide prevention programs, it is also innovative for CJSF. FIRE Within runs for an entire semester or academic year. Ignite will run for 6-8 week sessions, and is designed to be implemented across a full grade level or school-wide. Ignite will offer business skills, focusing specifically on marketing and messaging. Ignite participants will learn to recognize and understand emotions, develop skills to maintain and strengthen mental wellness, and will identify how mental health messaging impacts people in helpful and harmful ways. Students will choose from a list of mental health action steps, such as increasing help-seeking behaviors or developing coping skills, that they want to address. Utilizing innovative marketing techniques, they will develop a compelling message campaign to impact and build capacity around that subject that will be shared throughout their school.
Ignite competitions will be held at the end of each semester, and winning entries will have the opportunity to create a professionally directed and produced video about their work which may be shared locally and/or nationally. Through the program, Ignite participants will develop intrapersonal mental wellness skills, interpersonal social skills, and academic competencies in critical thinking, innovative problem-solving, and marketing education.
Like FIRE Within, Ignite will align with the Colorado Academic Standards and Comprehensive Health Education standards as well as the National Business Education Association standards. Also like FIRE Within, Ignite will include components of competition, project-based learning, and the opportunity for community engagement. The Ignite program will also include parent education to encourage open dialogue among families. Along with the development of FIRE Within 2.0, CJSF will develop a major technological component as a learning tool for the Ignite program. This will include content development (videos, learning tools, etc.), software and platform design, and a maintenance plan. This parallel development plan and timeline with FIRE 2.0 will allow for significant economy of scale.
Ignite curriculum will consist of 8-15 modules and will pilot in the fall semester of the 2017/2018 school year (August 2017).