Crimestoppers' Safe School Institute integrates mental health program from Michigan

Organizers say program can help students spot ‘warning signs' to keep students s

HOUSTON – After the Santa Fe shooting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott selected Crime Stoppers of Houston to lead all other Crime Stoppers in the state when it comes to school safety.

Now, Crime Stoppers is expanding its Safe School Institute to include a new mental health program from Michigan that teaches students and teachers an action plan to help save lives.

On Tuesday, organizers from Michigan traveled to train teachers and students at YES Prep North Central in Houston.

The program is all about action. Michigan mental health professionals tailored their program for Crime Stoppers here in Houston to show teachers and students what to look out for to keep students safe.

"There's a lot of bullying and school shootings and a lot of bad stuff going all around us," said Alana Vaughn, a seventh-grade student.

Vaughn sees her world evolving. Crime Stoppers has said that the change in times demands a change in action.

"How can we really integrate this look at mental health and the potential of crime, knowing that kids are suicidal, but they're also homicidal?" said Rania Mankarious, CEO of Crime Stoppers of Houston. "We needed a response, a comprehensive response, and we founded this program -- the Mental Health Foundation out of West Michigan."

The program is called Be Nice.

"The plan is to notice, to invite, to challenge and to empower -- therefore giving people a conversation and a way to be empowered," said Christy Buck, the founder of Be Nice. "The period stands for no excuses."

The plan teaches students how to identify signs that someone needs help and then teaches them ways in which they can help those students or get help for them.

"Fifty percent of all mental health disorders will begin by the time you're 14 years old and 75 percent by the age of 24, and when I say that statistic, I get chills because this is our window of opportunity to help kids," Buck said.

"It was a true answer, and it spoke to kids in their language and it met them where they were at," Mankarious said.

The program was tailored for Crime Stoppers and this is its first run outside Michigan.

"It's all about how you think, act and feel," Vaughn said.

Buck said the school shooting in Santa Fe might have been prevented if students who noticed signs had spoken up.

"That young man had changes in his behavior," Buck said.

She said when it comes to mental health, students can be the first line to help.

"I feel like it was very inspiring and I feel like kids nowadays need a boost," a student said.

"I think this was really helpful because I know kids who do show depression and it kind of helps me out with how they can cure it and how I can stop them from doing bad things to themselves or other people," Vaughn said.

More information

Crimestoppers of Houston Safe School Institute