Every Moment Counts: Promoting Mental Health Throughout the Day

What if every adult and student in schools were committed to promoting positive mental health throughout the school day?

Photo of Susan Bazyk
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

In Fall 2011, 14 occupational therapists formed a Community of Practice to build capacity of school personnel to contribute to mental health promotion, prevention and intervention. Collectively, we developed an initiative focusing on mental health promotion -- Every Moment Counts: Promoting Mental Health Throughout the Day. In 3 years, we developed, implemented & evaluated model programs (Comfortable Cafeteria, Refreshing Recess) & embedded strategies to help all students enjoy their day.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

White: Slovenian and Polish



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Ohio

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Ohio

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]


Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

This project aims to create school environments using embedded strategies that strategically help all children and youth with and without disabilities and/or mental health challenges participate in and enjoy activities throughout the school day in order to promote positive mental health and feelings of well-being. Most mental health initiatives focus on providing services primarily to students who have already developed mental health challenges.

Small moments can make a big difference in how children feel and function in school. Research confirms that positive interactions and experiences (e.g., enjoying lunch, 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/youth become mental healthy in order to succeed in school, at home and in the community. The goal of this multi-pronged initiative is to help school personnel become change leaders in promoting children’s mental health throughout the day. Positive mental health is more than the absence of mental illness – it is reflected in the presence of positive affect, positive psychological and social functioning, productive activities, and resilience in the face of adversities. Model programs designed to promote participation and enjoyment during lunch, recess and after-school have been developed, implemented and evaluated throughout Ohio (Comfortable Cafeteria, Refreshing Recess, Leisure Matters).  A focus is on full integration of students with disabilities and/or mental health challenges with their non-disabled peers and to foster prosocial behaviors such as how to be a good friend, respect differences, have a meaningful mealtime conversation, & enjoy active play. All model programs and embedded strategies are free and downloadable on the Every Moment Counts website so that ALL school personnel and students can learn about and contribute to mental health promotion. www.everymomentcounts.org

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Children who are differently abled
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education
  • Mental Health
  • Other

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

ALL school personnel and volunteers (para-educators, recess supervisors, cafeteria monitors, etc.).

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Comfortable Cafeteria and Refreshing Recess program outcomes: For students who initially score low (0-25) and in the middle range (25-75) on enjoyment/friendliness, we see statistically significant improvements in their levels of enjoyment of lunch/cafeteria and perceptions that other students and the supervisors are friendly. These are significant results suggesting that these 6-week (1 day/wk) programs are effective in transforming students’ experience from a negative to a positive one, thus, affecting school climate. Research evidence demonstrates that increased student connection to school enhances classroom engagement, academic performance, school attendance and completion rates and decreases dropout and problem behaviors.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Over the past 3 years, we have worked closely with school-based occupational therapy practitioners and diverse school stakeholders (administrators, teachers, related service providers, cafeteria and recess supervisors) to simultaneously: 1) build the capacity of OTs and school personnel to address the mental health needs of all students by applying a public health, multi-tiered approach to mental health; 2) develop, implement and evaluate models programs and strategies to promote mental health throughout the day for students with and without disabilities and/or mental health challenges (e.g. Comfortable Cafeteria, Refreshing Recess, Making Connections and Learning Together (MCaLT) embedded classroom groups); and 3) disseminated information and model programs via conference presentations, website materials, Facebook and Pinterest.

Organization Type

  • government

Annual Budget

  • $100k - $250k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Further funding is needed to strategically build capacity of school personnel to learn about and implement Every Moment Counts model programs and embedded strategies so that a public health approach to mental health in schools is implemented.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

Other national technical assistance centers are working on aspects of this work - like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (www.pbis.org) and the Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning (www.case.org). The Center for School Mental Health focuses heavily of prevention and intervention for mental health concerns. Every Moment Counts focuses more specifically on positive mental health.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Instead of focusing solely on prevention (like bully prevention) and interventions when problems arise (anxiety, depression, obesity), let's be proactive and teach children how to be mentally healthy, be a good friend, include others, eat healthy, enjoy active play, be kind, express their feelings, have a meaningful conversation, develop healthy hobbies and interests, etc.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 25%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 50%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 25%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 0%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 50%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 50%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 0%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 75%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 0%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 25%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 25%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 25%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 25%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 25%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 50%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 50%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 50%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 50%

Attachments (1)

EMC Info Brief.pdf

This is an Information Brief that describes the Every Moment Counts initiative.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ivette Guillermo-McGahee

Susan, thank you for sharing this inspiring project.  I too, agree that it is important to shift focus to promoting positive mental health rather than only making an effort to improve a child's mental state once a concern presents itself.  I am glad and encouraged that you are working to improve childrens' wellbeing from this lens.  Thank you again!

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