by Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
Small moments can make a big difference in how children feel and function in school. Research confirms that positive interactions and experiences such as enjoying lunch and having fun during recess help children feel positive and connected to school.
Every Moment Counts is a mental health promotion initiative developed to help all children and youth become mentally healthy in order to succeed in school, at home and in the community. Originally funded by the Ohio Department of Education (2012-2015), this multi-pronged grassroots initiative focuses on building capacity of occupational therapists and school personnel in applying a public health approach to mental health by embedding promotion, prevention and intervention strategies.
“Every Moment Counts is a natural extension to the work I have been doing specific to children’s mental health,” says Project Director Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Professor of Occupational Therapy in COSHP’s School of Health Sciences.“ In September 2011, I invited 13 school-based occupational therapists (OTs) from the Greater Cleveland area to join me for 6 months to read, reflect, and think about how to apply a public health approach to mental health in schools. We used a combination of face-to-face meetings and online discussions to examine current practice and envision how schools can promote mental health in all children and youth – those with and without disabilities and/or mental health challenges. Our combined wisdom, creative thinking, and knowledge of current evidence led to the development of Every Moment Counts. The original group of 13 OTs have served as Change Leaders for this project, developing, implementing, and evaluating models programs, creating toolkit materials, and educating other OTs and school personnel throughout Ohio and nationally.
Today, Every Moment Counts' model programs and embedded strategies foster prosocial and coping skills to help children learn how to be a good friend, respect differences and include others, engage in mealtime conversations during lunch, participate in active play during recess, and manage stress. The program focuses on reframing mental health as a positive state of functioning – mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. Positive mental health is associated with feeling good emotionally and doing well functionally in everyday life. For children and youth, this means doing well during academic (classroom) as well as nonacademic (recess, lunch, afterschool extracurricular activities) times of the school day. Model programs include the: Comfortable Cafeteria, Refreshing Recess, Leisure Coaching, and Calm Moments Cards.
In addition to authoring the book, Mental health promotion, prevention, and intervention with children and youth: A guiding framework for occupational therapy (2011), Dr. Bazyk has developed an extensive Every Moment Counts’ website to foster implementation of embedded strategies and model programs focusing on positive mental health. See www.everymomentcounts.org
Research outcomes have been published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (see below).
Dr. Bazyk is a professor in the Occupational Therapy Program, School of Health Sciences where she has taught for 33 years. Her work with Every Moments Counts in nationally recognized and implemented by school personnel throughout the country. She has presented at numerous state, national, and international conferences and is currently serving as the lead consultant for a grant project funded by the New Hampshire Department of Education, Office of Student Wellness, to build capacity of occupational therapists and school personnel to address children’s mental health and implement Every Moment Counts. Dr. Bazyk’s contributions have recently been recognized as a 2016 Crain’s Cleveland Business Health Care Hero and the 2017 Outstanding Research Award for the College of Sciences and Health Professions.
Bazyk, S., Demirjian, L., Horvath, F., & Dosxey, L. (in press). The Comfortable Cafeteria program for promoting student participation and enjoyment: An outcome study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 74.
Bazyk, S., Demirjian, L., LaGuardia, T., Thompson-Repas, K., Conway, C., & Michaud, P. (2015). Building capacity of occupational therapy practitioners to address the mental health needs of children and youth: Mixed methods study of knowledge translation. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 6906180060p1–6906180060p10.