Successful mental health training program will expand to the Lab community


Malcolm Taylor

Fine arts department chair Sunny Neater poses with her Mental Health First Aid certificate. The training took Ms. Neater 30 hours to complete.

Meena Lee, Sports Editor

More than 100 Laboratory Schools employees became certified in Mental Health First Aid where they learned how to assess and meet students’ mental health needs. Because of the training’s success, it will now be offered to others in the Lab community within the next year, including 10th-12th graders. 

According to Nicole Neal, Lab’s director of student services, the six-hour training provided by the National Council for Mental Well-Being helped participants explore different ways that mental health impacts students and develop skills and strategies to help their students. Ms. Neal said the feedback she heard from teachers was positive.

“Some of them reached out and said, ‘I’ve already been able to implement some of the skills that I learned with the students in my courses,’” Ms. Neal said. “Some of them talked about how it really gave them a different perspective about things that they had already encountered with students.”

Moving forward, Ms. Neal wants to see every employee at the Laboratory Schools trained and certified in mental health first aid. Though the school isn’t mandating the training, Ms. Neal said, she hopes that as the first group of participants share their positive experiences, they will encourage others to engage with the programming. 

Ms. Neal plans to include other members of the Lab community, including 10th-12th graders, to complete the training. For this teen-specific training, the National Council for Mental Well-Being partners with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to educate students about how to prioritize self-awareness and self-care. 

It’s about how we can create cultures, networks, within the student body that support, and that rally around mental health and wellness with students.

— Nicole Neal

According to Ms. Neal, a pilot group of rising 10th-12th graders will complete the training over the summer and then act as ambassadors for this program when it will be accessible to all students in fall 2022. She hopes training students will provide another layer of support for their peers within the high school. 

“It’s about how we can create cultures, networks, within the student body that support, and that rally around mental health and wellness with students,” Ms. Neal said.

Ms. Neal also mentioned the possibility of providing this training to Lab parents. Ultimately, Ms. Neal believes expanding the mental health training to all members of the Lab community is the best way to unite the school community over mental health and well-being. 

Ms. Neal said, “The goal is for just as a community for us to raise our will, our awareness about mental health, and how it is all of our responsibility to to make sure that this is a healthy place.”