LOS ANGELES, April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The children's charity Let's Erase the Stigma Educational Foundation (LETS) announces their new Directors of Research, Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, Chair and Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley; and Dr. Bennett Leventhal, a leader of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Nathan Kline Institute. Together LETS, Dr. Hinshaw, and Dr. Leventhal will study the impact that LETS programs have on children and communities and use the data to refine the goals and model LETS uses to erase the stigma of mental illness.
LETS Educational Foundation provides early opportunities for children, adolescents, and young adults to meet regularly and openly discuss mental illness through the LETS Club model. LETS establishes clubs in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and community centers; where participating youth can learn about mental health, plan and lead their own stigma-erasing projects, and provide peer-to-peer education in their communities. The LETS Club design is a powerful yet easytoimplement model that bypasses barriers to fighting stigma because it's "just a club." As a club, LETS can be integrated into any school to establish student dialogue around mental health issues, decrease stigmatized attitudes, and increase help-seeking behaviors.
While there has been great emphasis on educating college students about mental illness and psychological health, children and adolescents have received little attention. LETS addresses the mental health education needs of kids as young as elementary and middle school through club activities and a toolkit for elementary school teachers. By beginning their pilot study with established LETS Clubs and then developing long-term studies, the research team will determine the lasting effects LETS has on kids, schools, families, communities, and even nonmembers.
Dr. Hinshaw is a clinical and developmental psychologist whose main interests lie in the conjunction between normal development and the development of behavioral and emotional problems. He is the editor of Psychological Bulletin, the most cited journal in general psychology. His research focuses on adolescent and young adult outcomes via clinical trials and prospective, longitudinal studies. His research program also has an additional area of focus: the stigmatization of mental illness. Dr. Hinshaw is considered one of the nation's leading experts on stigma, and he is the author of several groundbreaking books on this topic, including The Mark of Shame: Stigma of Mental Illness and Agenda for Change, and Breaking the Silence: Mental Health Professionals Disclose their Personal and Family Experiences with Mental Illness. "LETS embraces a simple yet revolutionary idea: kids will find solutions to stigma. Because discussion of mental illness and stigma emerges from the youth themselves in LETS clubs, LETS is an idea whose time has come. I'm honored to be able to assist in evaluating its impact," says Dr. Hinshaw, who will speak to 250 "Generation LETS" high school students at the First Annual Youth Summit on May 23. This event at The California Endowment will empower teen participants to discuss mental illness, generate ideas for change, and begin their own "LETS Effect" in their schools.
Dr. Leventhal is an internationally renowned child and adolescent psychiatrist who has held academic appointments and leadership positions at the nation's top medical schools, state and federal commissions, and national psychiatric and medical societies. Dr. Leventhal has received recognition for his leadership and expertise in fostering career development, training programs, and collaborative research networks with an emphasis on molecular genetics, community service, and public health. His efforts have led to the creation of nationally prominent clinical research programs that continue to shape how we study childhood psychiatric disorders. "LETS is an extraordinary opportunity to change the face of child and adolescent mental health," says Dr. Leventhal. "By fostering understanding and compassion, LETS will allow our youth to create and share a new vision of how to end stigma and bring hope for the treatment and acceptance of psychiatric illness."
LETS has prioritized measuring outcomes from its early stages of growth to hold its model accountable and to establish best practices in helping kids overcome stigma. Dr. Hinshaw and Dr. Leventhal agree that LETS is an innovative opportunity to change public perceptions and learn more about how stigma and mental illness affect children. They are currently implementing the LETS pilot study to be followed by a long-term evaluation of sustained change in attitudes and behaviors related to mental illness. With these data LETS will continue to develop age-appropriate programs to reduce stigma, such as a national speakers program, mentorships, and youth-led projects.
About Let's Erase the Stigma Educational Foundation
Let's Erase the Stigma Educational Foundation (LETS) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) children's charity dedicated to erasing the stigma of mental illness by funding and developing educational programs, mentoring opportunities, and research possibilities designed to empower youth to change the perception of mental illness.
For more information, contact LETS at (888) 594-5387 or visit www.lets.org.
Media Contact: Steve Inch, Propel Communications (208.850.7058), [email protected]
SOURCE Let’s Erase the Stigma Educational Foundation