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TRAILS (Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students)

With an award of nearly half of a million dollars from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, the U-M Depression Center is now expanding its unique program, Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students (TRAILS), which will bring effective mental health care to school-aged children and adolescents with mental illnesses throughout the state. Depression and anxiety now affect one in five school-aged youth. Due to the challenges families face when trying to access effective mental health care, school counselors, social workers, and psychologists are often the only source for much needed help. Unfortunately, most training programs for school professionals rarely teach evidence-based strategies for responding to student mental illness, thus leaving schools unprepared to help their troubled students.

The TRAILS program provides didactic instruction to school professionals in evidence-based mental health care approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT and then links community mental health providers with their local schools to provide follow-up coaching. In early demonstration trials, this training paired with in-person coaching has led to significant improvement in school professionals' uptake and utilization of CBT. With better self-awareness and a toolkit of healthful coping strategies, students have experienced decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety. They've been better able to improve their emotional wellbeing and engage in healthier, more productive lifestyles, and stand up to the hopelessness, isolation, worry, and shame that so often accompany depression and anxiety. These promising findings inspired the project team to expand the program throughout the state of Michigan.

TRAILS is headed by Dr. Elizabeth Koschmann, a research investigator with the Department of Psychiatry at U-M. Over the past three years, Dr. Koschmann and her team have piloted the CBT training program with 24 schools spanning 10 counties. With the help of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, TRAILS will now build a statewide network of community mental health providers to provide support and post-training coaching to school professionals learning CBT. TRAILS plans to train 150 providers in CBT and Mindfulness techniques, as well as in strategies for disseminating those techniques in school settings over the course of the next year. For more information regarding TRAILS, please contact project coordinator Jennifer Vichich at jvichich@med.umich.edu.