In 2019, Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana (MHANI) said farewell to a long-time student program as we expanded efforts to help kids by strengthening the bonds between students and adults.

After 35 years, a shift in funder priorities led to the end of Kids on the Block as of the 2019-20 school year. Kids on the Block educated third grade students about disabilities and how disabilities affect their classmates’ lives. MHANI first began offering the program in local elementary schools in 1983. Skits used close to life-size puppets with and without disabilities. Every year, it provided opportunities for students to learn about specific disabilities, as well as broader themes of friendship, community-building, the importance of expressing feelings, and celebrating differences.

In the 2018-2019 school year, Kids on the Block reached more than 2,000 students in all four public school systems in Allen County. MHANI is indebted to the professionals who brought the Kids on the Block to life, and to the teachers and school administrators who welcomed them into their classrooms for over 30 years.

While we’re sorry to see this program come to an end, we are excited about future opportunities to positively impact students and school personnel. In 2019, MHANI developed a series of school-based services focused on fostering school environments conducive to social and emotional learning practices. Services include professional development opportunities for teachers and consultation with school stakeholders to identify champions and determine goals. Discussions with area school districts and funders are underway.

Thanks to a grant from the Drug and Alcohol Consortium of Allen County, MHANI began offering a new program in 2019. Sources of Strength is a peer-led suicide prevention program focusing on teaching young people to utilize existing strengths that surround them to help in a crisis. With a primary focus of training adults (Adult Advisors) and students (Peer Leaders), Sources of Strength supports stronger adult-youth connections. Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders work together to change school and community culture to one where youth are more likely to refer a suicidal friend, and understand the importance of surrounding oneself with activities, people, and things that give you strength.

While changes can be bittersweet, we are happy to develop new ways to support students and the adults who surround them with positive information and training that helps them help each other build a stronger, more resilient community