Mental health education should begin at an early age, according to a local man who started an educational program that creates a cultural environment where learning self-control, self-confidence and how to deal with adversity is as important as the ABCs.
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"It can't be just about gun control. We need intervention and prevention and we need to do it now," said Jon Oliver, creator of Lesson One, during NBC4's visit to E.P. Foster Elementary School in Ventura. Students and staff have been following the program there for several years.
Counselor Marie Alviz brought Lesson One to the school after learning about it from a local probation officer. The fatal killings just north of the school, in Isla Vista, make the school's efforts more palpable.
"Right now we are living in a culture of violence, self-gratification, instant gratification and that's needs to stop," Alviz said.
The self-awareness taught nationwide through Lesson One starts as young as 3 years old. There are daily activities that students and staff must perform each day, including "relax time" before and after each new assignment.
Oliver explains the skill to a group of third graders:
"It opens up our what?" Oliver asked.
"Brains,” the children responded.
"Should we make our body loose or tight?" he followed up.
"Loose," they replied.
There are also exercises in self-control where children are taught to control their actions. During one activity, Oliver blew bubbles in the faces of first graders who were not allowed to look or touch them.
"I use my self-control at recess to not fight and stuff and not to get angry when I'm playing soccer," third-grader Axel Vergara said.
Oliver insists the students are taught not to be perfect, but to take responsibility for their actions and that it is OK to make mistakes.
Teachers insist their students are making remarkable progress using Lesson One.
"My students are in first grade and they are doing multiplication, they are reading chapter books," said Guadalupe Alpuche, a first grade teacher.
"We also talk during family time about how they can teach their family at home to use these skills at home," third-grade teacher Carmen Garcia added.
Oliver says there are grants to fund the program at schools. For more information, visit www.lessonone.org.