During the congress, the students presented their recommendations for improving the model for promoting mental health at schools, obtained through a participatory research process coordinated by the IrsiCaixa Living Lab for Health
Last year the Sentinel Schools project, led by the Centre for Epidemiological Studies on Sexually Transmitted Infections and AIDS of Catalonia (CEEISCAT), identified the promotion of mental health at schools as a priority challenge for the educational community. On 2 June, after a second course aimed at working on this mission, the researchers celebrated the 2nd Sentinel Schools Congress, at which the results of the project's different work packages were presented. The IrsiCaixa Living Lab for Health, within the framework of the European CONNECT project, has led the participatory research blog, involving the educational community in the research. In this line, more than 1,600 students participated, along with their teachers and families, who presented the results of their research at the congress: a list of recommendations for improving the mental health promotion model so that it has a more comprehensive approach.
A congress that brings together the educational, scientific and public administration communities
The conference was attended in person by more than 200 students and teachers, 30 people from the research groups of Sentinel Schools and representatives of the Generalitat de Catalunya -such as the Secretary of Public Health Carmen Cabezas, the Secretary of Educational Transformation Núria Mora and the head of the infant-juvenile area of the General Subdirectorate of Health Promotion of the Public Health Agency Laia Asso. At the same time, 7 educational centres were connected virtually to the event.
The congress included the presentation of the results of the work packages by the different research centres involved -CEEISCAT, Hospital Vall d'Hebron, ISGlobal and IrsiCaixa. Interventions to promote mental health carried out in several schools participating in the project were also presented, as well as the recommendations for improvement developed with and for the educational community, among other interventions.
More than 40 teachers, 1,600 students and their families, participants in the research
IrsiCaixa's Living Lab for Health has been responsible for working to improve the mental health promotion model through a participatory research process involving students, teachers and families from 17 educational centres. Thanks to the research process, the educational community has identified the problems and opportunities of the current model, its causes and consequences, and has drawn up recommendations for improvement. The Living Lab integrated and analysed the results from all the schools to create a list of 29 recommendations grouped into 5 areas: mental and social health, participation of the educational community and other actors, communication and education, social inequality, cultural diversity and the digital divide, and adaptation of infrastructures. This final list of recommendations was subsequently validated by the educational community.
"This type of project allows different actors to be involved in problem-solving and, therefore, allows problems to be addressed from a systemic or holistic perspective that takes into account different parts of the problem that can only be identified by considering all the people affected by the issue under investigation. In this case, we were studying mental health in the classroom and, therefore, it is logical that the educational community should be involved in the research process," explains Rosina Malagrida, head of the IrsiCaixa Living Lab of Health, coordinator of the participatory research work package of the Sentinel Schools project and partner of the European CONNECT project.
The Living Lab team, among other missions, seeks to encourage schools to evolve towards the concept of Open Schooling. This movement aims to move schools away from the traditional educational model and wants to promote educational activities that are open to other actors and involve students in research projects to solve problems. "During the development of the project we have seen that involving the educational community in the process is essential in order to design a more effective model of mental health promotion. Concluding the participatory research blog by presenting its recommendations and discussing them with the scientific, educational and political community at this 2nd Sentinel Schools Congress has been a success," concludes Laia Vives, project manager of the IrsiCaixa Living Lab for Health.