Pathways to Empower: A Framework to Teach Mental Health Literacy

dragonfly-fourssBy Debby Spitzer & Donna Volpitta, Ed.D.

Issues of mental health and wellness are forging their way into mainstream conversations. Once a taboo topic, it is now becoming so mainstream that many states, in recognition of the importance of understanding mental health literacy, are now actively including mental health education in the K-12 curriculum.

What is mental health? According to, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.” We believe that mental health is brain health, and just like we need to understand and meet the needs of our body to be physically healthy, we need to understand our brains in order to be mentally healthy.  That is why we have developed Pathways to Empower, an easy way to teach mental health literacy using the Resilient Mindset Model.  Here is an example of one way that the framework can help:

Being mentally healthy doesn’t mean we are always happy. We will always face challenges; in fact, it can be unhealthy to always try to be happy. They key here is being aware. We can’t always control how we feel, but if we are aware, not only are we better able to handle what is going on now, it can help us handle challenges in the future. Bottom line, handling challenges makes us more resilient, which is one of the biggest protective factors for mental health.

In the Resilient Mindset Model, the Four Ss (self, situation, supports, strategies) offer a framework to prepare for, handle, and reflect on any challenge.

Here are 4 questions you can ask yourself when preparing for and handling challenges:

Self: What strengths do I bring?
Situation: Can I break the challenge down into manageable steps?
Support: Who can I go to for help if I need it? How do I ask?
Strategies: What should I do? Is this strategy working?

The 4 Ss are a framework to help you successfully face any challenge. Our brain likes routine, so the Four Ss can help us to proactively develop more resilient brain pathways, which is one of the best ways that we can foster mental health.

For more information or to learn about certification in Pathways to Empower, please contact us at

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