Three young people are sitting on the lawn outside a school.

About the VIP School Programme

Every year around 130 schools in Norway carry out the VIP Programme. The main purpose of the programme is to make students better equipped to take care of their own mental health and to be aware of where they can seek help. This is achieved through the training of school staff and cooperation between schools and local mental health care providers.

Here you can see an overview of the schools that have carried out the VIP Programme  — Please note that the information is in norwegian

VIP stands for “Veiledning og Informasjon om Psykisk helse i skolen”, which translates to “Guidance and Information on Mental Health in School” and is described as a health-promoting and preventive measure. The VIP Programme is owned by Vestre Viken and financed by the Norwegian Directorate of Health as part of the Mental Health in School initiative, along with other programmes that cover the entire school period. This is why the programme is free for schools to carry out. We only charge the cost price of our booklets for students and teachers.The VIP Programme is part of Vestre Viken Coping and Learning Centre (LMS) — Please note that the information about LMS is in norwegian

Why VIP?​​​

We know that many young people have mental health problems or disorders. We also know that many of them do not apply for help to solve their problems. There might be several reasons for that. First, mental illness is often regarded as taboo. It is not something people talk about. This is why many young people do not dare share their problems with anyone, no matter how big or small those problems may be. This attitude only serves to reinforce these problems. The other possible explanation is that the students themselves might not realise they have mental health issues. They know so little about mental health that they are simply not aware of what bothers them. Their social circle might not be familiar with the symptoms of mental health problems either.

Clinical research shows that early healthcare service is believed to help young people with mental disorders recover faster and reduce the risk of recurring periods of serious illness. In order to get health care service as early as possible, there should be someone who can identify the need for it. This is where the VIP Programme comes into play.

VIP wants to help students become more aware of their own mental health and the ways in which they can self-care and get help when needed. This benefits all students, not just the ones with mental disorders, because we can all have a bad day once in a while. Good mental health is about managing difficult feelings and facing challenges. At the same time, we want to make students aware of where they can get help to prevent minor problems from growing into something bigger..

Background and Goal

The VIP project began in 2000 when young members of the Patients' Council at the former Blakstad Hospital in Asker (now the Patients’ Committee in Vestre Viken) said that they had experienced a great deal of ignorance in relation to mental disorders during the period of time before they received treatment. This prompted the Patients' Council to submit a proposal to the director suggesting that Blakstad Hospital should do something about this problem. They proposed that schools should provide students with information about mental health issues. The patients thought that if they had learnt about mental health issues before they got ill, they would have paid more attention to the initial signs of the problems, and they could have sought help much earlier. The programme was then developed by the Patients' Council and mental health professionals led by the programme founders Mona Vangsnes Lien and Anne Gro Tvedt. Today the VIP Programme is carried out by 130 upper secondary schools every year.

Target Audience

The programme targets first-year (Vg1) students of Norwegian upper secondary schools, teachers, and local health professionals. Every one in the school staff are offered professional development within the subject area of Young People and Mental Health.

Main Goal

The VIP Programme aims to better equip students to take care of their mental health by educating the school staff and students about the topic, as well as by providing information on the kinds of help that are available.

Interim Goals

  • The students will learn more about mental health in general and gain awareness of their own feelings. They will also increase their understanding of the basics of mental health issues and disorders, as well as learn to recognise the signs of mental health issues in themselves and others.
  • The students will get information on where they can apply for help, both locally and nationally, if they have a mental illness or disorder.
  • The VIP Programme should act as a meeting point for the school and local mental health care providers to ensure effective cooperation. ​
  • School staff will enhance their competence in the field of mental health. Teachers, counsellors, and health professionals will also receive guidance on how to implement the VIP Programme.

Implementation Model for Schools

Below is a presentation of how we recommend that the VIP Programme be implemented at a new school. The schools that have been implementing VIP for some time can also request best practices seminars or meetings where we provide them with guidance or professional development training. 

Phase 1: Collaboration Meeting

We recommend a collaboration meeting with the VIP coordinator/team and a local mental health care provider. This meeting is for reviewing the content and methods of mental health classroom activities. We can go through and discuss the Student Booklet and the Resource Booklet for teachers and health professionals. The roles of the teachers and health professionals and a timetable for programme implementation in the classroom are also clarified at this meeting.
   

Phase 2: Training Conference for School Staff (1 Day)

The training conference consists of two parts and is offered to all school staff. This conference prepares the school for implementation of the programme and gives a general overview of the subject of mental health and young people.

We recommend that the schools that have been implementing the VIP Programme for some time have an opening/kick-off meeting with information and possible professional development training on the topic of mental health.
   

Phase 3: Classroom Instruction by Contact Teacher (3 Lessons)

The teacher will devote three lessons to the topic of mental health. It is up to the teacher to choose the particular topics he/she feels comfortable with. The Resource Booklet also contains some concrete suggestions on how these three lessons can be taught for those who would like to use it.

   

Phase 4: Class Visits (2 Lessons)

A mental health service professional, along with a nurse or a school counsellor, will visit every Vg1 class. The visitors will continue the topic started by the teacher and can effectively answer any questions that the students have written down for them in advance.

   

Phase 5: Evaluation

The Vg1 students and teachers will evaluate the activities. Then an evaluation meeting will be organised so that the programme participants and the management of the particular school can come together to share and discuss the summarised evaluation results. Students’ evaluation forms can then be sent to our researcher, Bror Just Andersen, who can create a graphic presentation of the results if the school wishes.

What Students and Teachers Are Saying

From the Vg1 students who have completed the VIP Programme:

“We spend a lot of time at school learning general subjects. I think it’s important to learn more about people and how things are going with us. This is something we can definitely use later in life”.

“I know where I can go if I have a mental problem one day. I have learnt to describe my feelings with words”.

“It's good that the adults care and make the time for such things”.

“I used to be afraid to talk about other people’s problems before, but now I know that I shouldn’t be afraid to do this and that it is only for their benefit”.
   

From the teachers who have carried out the VIP Programme:

“I’m happy to have been a part of this programme as a contact teacher. As teachers, we do not see everything that’s going on around us, and we can often become too focused on the curriculum. The VIP staff also communicated in a friendly and polite way”.

“It's important for students to understand that experiencing problems is normal. Things don't always go smoothly, and students need to know what to do in those difficult situations”.

“The students learn useful information and get to hear or take part in conversations about difficult topics. This allows me to relate to the students better in the long run”.

“This is hugely important, and I’m so happy that the programme has found its way into the school! We had an entire day at school devoted to VIP, with three reports and discussions with the students. I have partially integrated the programme into the English lesson. There are many opportunities here for all subjects! Thank you for a great programme!”

“Not all adults can easily talk about feelings with confidence, so it’s great to have a large selection of Internet resources as a guide, as well as videos and references to other Internet pages”.

“I think the students both benefited greatly from and took great pleasure in sitting in groups and discussing various topics. This helped to make the topic more broad, allowing the students to talk generally without using themselves as examples. We also got to go around the class, ask the students some questions, and take part in discussions. I have also tried to include some cross-disciplinary topics, and I see that the students care about them. This is why it is important to allocate time to this”.

Cooperation Partners

The VIP Programme has several cooperation partners who help us stay updated in several important areas of our professional expertise. In addition to cooperation meetings and experience sharing, some of these partners also contribute to the development of our materials.

Please note that the following links lead to websites that are in norwegian:

Other languages

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