TRAILS (Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students), is a unique program that brings effective mental health care to students with symptoms of depression and anxiety throughout Michigan. 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, training programs for school professionals rarely teach evidence-based strategies for responding to student mental illness, thus leaving schools unprepared to help their students.
The TRAILS program provides didactic instruction to school professionals in evidence-based mental health care approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, 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. Additionally, students experienced decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result of better self-awareness and a toolkit of healthful coping strategies. These promising findings inspired the project team to expand the program throughout Michigan.
TRAILS is headed by Dr. Elizabeth Koschmann, a research investigator with the Department of Psychiatry at U-M. The program is currently building a statewide network of community mental health providers to provide support and coaching to school professionals learning CBT.