This week, Governor Steve Bullock announced $372,000 in grants to Montana community organizations, health care providers, and schools to expand current or launch new evidence-based suicide prevention programs.

Part of that money includes $41,000 to implement the PAX Good Behavior Game to selected kindergarten, first and second grade classes.

MCPS School Wellness Coordinator Carol Ewen explains the concept behind the game.

“It’s an intervention that’s used in the classroom, and long term study shows that when it’s used with really young children, there’s less suicide ideation and mental health issues, higher graduation rates, and that teachers are less likely to feel burned out,” Ewen said.

Ewen describes home the game works.

“You divide your classroom into several groups, and if students are inappropriate, the group gets a point, but you’re never calling out that individual student, so it helps the kids support each other to behave appropriately, and to problem-solve when things aren’t going well, so it doesn’t get a kid into a place where he’s always getting into trouble with the teacher,” she said.

She said positive peer pressure is the key to the game.

“You have to be really clear about what your expectations are, so there’s no confusion with the kids,” she said. “That way the students will say, ‘Oh, Johnny, put your hands up when you talk, remember we talked about that’, so you have them prompting their friends in the moment, so that they learn more quickly what to do. You just have fewer behavioral problems which helps increase instructional time and keep kids on track, so it’s a win-win all the way around.”