01 Jan APA’s 2023 Trends Report Features Alexis Harris on CSP, Prevention of Mental Health Issues
The American Psychological Association (APA) interviewed Compassionate Schools Project’s Alexis Harris as part of its 2023 Trends Report. The article appeared in the organization’s APA Monitor.
The following is excerpted from the article:
“We can’t wait until people are suffering to apply what we know,” said Alexis Harris, PhD, a research assistant professor of education at Youth-Nex, the University of Virginia Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, and the project director for the Compassionate Schools Project.
With Compassionate Schools, Harris and her colleagues are studying a curriculum that builds on SEL by integrating concepts of mindfulness, compassion, body awareness, healthy eating, and exercise. The study is taking place in 45 schools with some 20,000 children and provides strategies to support educator well-being as well. This kind of holistic, mind-body approach is a trend in prevention science, she added. “After decades of research, it’s evident that there are common root causes and common protective factors that underlie a variety of mental, emotional, and behavioral problems,” she said. “Starting there, we can have a broader impact.”
As the field sets its sights on broadening and strengthening its prevention efforts, there’s also a call to move away from a predominant focus on individual choices and behaviors.
“In many approaches that are focused on promoting adaptive skills and positive behavioral trajectories, a lot of responsibility is placed on the individual. We see that so much with the attention placed on self-care, for example,” Harris said. “That obscures the fact that we need to pay more attention to the conditions in the systems that individuals are functioning within.”