GVSU Education Programs News

Faculty identify effectiveness of schools' mental health program

June 18, 2021

Faculty identify effectiveness of schools' mental health program

Two Grand Valley faculty members concluded a three-year study on a school-based mental health awareness and education program and found it effective in increasing behaviors that prevent suicide.

Raymond Higbea, Associate Professor and Chair of Public, Nonprofit and Health administration, and Rosemary Cleveland, Senior Affiliate faculty of Education, led the evidence-based study on the be nice. program. Established by the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, be nice. (which stands for "Notice, Invite, Challenge, and Empower") is a mental health program that educates students, staff and parents by providing them tools to recognize a mental health illness.

Higbea and Cleveland conducted interviews with more than 300 students, teachers, and administrators at 74 elementary, middle and high schools that implement be nice. into their curriculum. Findings from the study are listed below.

The program:

  • Increases mental health awareness by more than 60 percent.
  • Decreases the number of behavioral referrals and bullying incidents. 
  • Increases feelings of school connectedness.
  • Decreases incidents of disrespect among students.

Higbea said they found differences among schools that had a "robust" implementation of the program. "The more a school implemented be nice., the better results they had," he said. "We found there was evidence that when implemented, this program makes a difference in people's lives, especially when done so in a positive school environment with robust implementation."

Christy Buck, executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, said the study's results validate what students, parents and teachers have said for years: be nice. works.

"We had been pushing the be nice. action plan since 2011, but we didn’t have the data to show its effectiveness," Buck said. "It was a little scary handing the program over to the professors for evaluation, but the qualitative and quantitative data that came back proved that this program was making a difference in mental health."

Buck said with the results of the study, the be nice. program has expanded into several schools in the metro Detroit area.

Learn more about the results of the study online at benice.org.


Article photo features the be nice logo from benice.org.

Story originally posted on GVNext. For more information on this story, contact Michele Coffill in University Communications - (616) 331-2221.

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Page last modified June 18, 2021