School Mental Health Grief Readiness Lab

School Mental Health Grief Readiness Lab, a pilot program of the Pacific Southwest MHTTC and Workplace Resilience April 20 - May 25, 2021


Our invitation: Join our School Mental Health Grief Readiness Lab!

Thank you to all who filled out an interest form by March 31, 2021!


As we begin the second year of the COVID pandemic and navigate reopening schools, there's an increasing need to develop infrastructure, policies, training, and awareness regarding grief sensitivity not just in how we support our students, but also how we support our workforce in schools.

According to research conducted by the Grief Recovery Institute, organizations lose $76 billion dollars a year due to mismanaged loss and grief. At the time of the research, it was estimated that one in four people are experiencing a loss at any given time; in 2021, we could easily argue that number is much closer to four in four, whether that loss is from the death of someone significant, loss of health, loss of support structures and normalcy, or any of the other innumerable losses we’re all facing. 

Ensuring your teams are grief literate, with a clear plan in place for how to navigate moments of grief-related absenteeism or presenteeism, is no longer a nice-to-have but a need-to-have when it comes to building strong organizational culture and effective team dynamics. 



That’s why Pacific Southwest MHTTC is partnering with Workplace Resilience, an initiative of The Dinner Party, a national non-profit and leader in peer-led collective grief care; every staff person and member with The Dinner Party has lived experience with grief, life after loss, and working in grief-centered workplaces.

Together, we will be hosting a pilot program entitled School Mental Health Grief Readiness Lab, that will build off of the session Workplace Resilience led at the MHTTC Grief Sensitivity Virtual Learning Institute in the fall (participation in the Lab is not contingent on having been present at these sessions.)



We’re specifically inviting school and mental health systems leaders and influencers (state, district, county) from the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, California, Nevada, and Arizona to explore how grief is impacting your workforce, as well as hone skills and gain knowledge to become more grief literate. 


The output of this Lab will be an actionable and custom Grief Readiness Plan to be deployed in your departments and organizations so that you can better support the schools, staff, and students you serve



The lab will run from April 20 - May 25, 2021 and meets on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. PT for 90 minutes. 


Tuesday: 2-3:30 p.m. PT / 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. HT / 10 - 11:30 p.m. American Samoa


Wednesday: 9-10:30 a.m. Marshall Islands / 8-9:30 a.m. Pohnpei, Kosrae / 7-8:30 a.m. Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Chuuk, Yap / 6-7:30 a.m. Palau


Lab Learning Objectives:


  1. GRIEF READINESS 101: Gain deeper understanding of the emotional, social and physical effects of grief, and its impact on school mental health workplace dynamics. 
  2. TAKING STOCK: Reflect on current culture and policies (including crisis readiness) around grief and loss in your schools and districts, identifying areas in need of growth or change. 

  3. WHAT’S POSSIBLE: Define what Grief Readiness means to your school system, county,or district. Identify what the ideal-scene would be for responding to grief and loss in your workplace, brainstorming solutions to the challenges surfaced. 

  4. BUILDING SKILLS: Discuss and practice management and leadership strategies to create a culture of support for grieving colleagues, staff, and employees. 

  5. GETTING READY: Develop your own Grief Readiness Plan to begin implementing in your school systems, counties or districts.


Participation Requirements: 

In order to participate in this pilot, we ask that each member the group: 


  • Fill out an intake form to indicate interest and so we know where you are in terms of your grief knowledge and can tailor our content accordingly


  • Be available to join on Zoom from 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM PT on: 

    • Session 1: Tuesday, April 20

    • Session 2: Tuesday, April 27 

    • Session 3: Tuesday, May 4

    • Session 4: Tuesday, May 11

    • Session 5: Tuesday, May 18

    • Session 6: Tuesday, May 25


  • Dedicate 60 minutes of work with your group between session times 


  • Fill out an post-assessment upon conclusion of the program so that we can learn from your experience


Next Steps:


  • If there is another delegate from your region, or someone else you would recommend, please forward them the invitation!


  • You’ll hear from Leora Wolf-Prusan (Pacific Southwest MHTTC School Mental Health Lead) with a welcome and introduction to Workplace Resilience facilitators by April 5.


  • You’ll receive a welcome email from your facilitators to launch the Lab on April 12 to get you ready for the lab’s first day of learning on April 20.



About the Pacific Southwest MHTTC:


The Pacific Southwest MHTTC serves the priorities of SAMHSA Region 9 states and territories, including: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and U.S. Pacific Islands of American Samoa, Guam, Marshall Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. We offer a collaborative MHTTC model in order to provide training, technical assistance (TTA), and resource dissemination that supports the mental health workforce to adopt and effectively implement evidence-based practices (EBPs) across the mental health continuum of care. The Pacific Southwest MHTTC also provides TTA and resources at a national level on a specialty area focused on youth and young adults of transition age.


Contact us with questions: [email protected] 


About Workplace Resilience, an initiative of The Dinner Party:


Workplace Resilience brings peer-to-peer support practices into organizations to better support employees who are struggling with loss in its many forms - death, loss of normalcy, loss of health, etc. We re-establish trust after difficult times and use the shared experience to build a deeply connected, energized and effective culture. 

The Dinner Party is a platform for grieving 20-, 30-, and early 40-somethings to find peer community and build lasting relationships. We screen, train, and support a growing network of peer hosts, and connect them to 12-15 people nearby, who share a similar age and loss experience. Today, 4,000+ active members gather bimonthly at 400+ local tables in over 100 cities and towns worldwide. We've been featured on NPR's Morning Edition, On Being with Krista Tippett, CNN, NYT, O Magazine, BuzzFeed, and dozens of other publications, and as a case study in various books, including the The Upside of Stress, The New Better Off, and The Power of Meaning. More information at

About the Facilitators: 

Woman with long hair sits a table with a clock behind herCarla Fernandez, Lead Facilitator

Co-founder, The Dinner Party & Workplace Resilience

Carla is a social entrepreneur and community builder focused on helping healing ideas enter culture. She is the co-founder of The Dinner Party, the only in-person, peer-led community for grieving millennials, now active in 100 cities and featured in NYTimes, NPR, and OnBeing and as a case study in almost a dozen books. Combining her decade of experience building The Dinner Party, and her tenure as founding team member and General Manager of creative agency enso, Carla and team have developed a training series for workplaces to develop deeper cultures of support when it comes to handling loss and hardship. Workplace Resilience has trained staff at organizations like Banner Health, Redfin, Warner Music Group, Google, and others, supporting individuals, teams, managers and leadership on how to create psychologically safe workplaces that are better for employees struggling with a loss, and also better for the bottom line. 



Smiling man with dark hairJustin Thongsavanh, MPA - Co-facilitator and Producer

Senior Operations Manager, The Dinner Party 

Throughout his career, he has worked for a variety of nonprofits and municipalities focusing on program development and implementation and operations. Prior to joining The Dinner Party, he worked for one of the nation’s largest bereavement camps, developing programs and raising funds for children and teens who experienced the loss of a parent or sibling. After the death of his own father at the age of 12, he felt isolated and alone. As an adult he has made it his mission to not only find a community for himself, but to also help create a community for folks who have experienced loss and subsequent adversities. He holds a B.A. in Liberal Studies, a Certificate in Non-Profit Management, and a Master’s in Public Administration all from California State University, Long Beach. Additionally, he serves on the Advisory Board of the Design Thinking Extension Program at the University of California, Riverside. 



Black woman wearing a gray top smiling Iana Malcom - Guest Facilitator

The Dinner Party, Director of BIPOC Wellbeing

At 27, and after 7 years of being her Caregiver, Iana lost her mother to Breast Cancer. At 31 years old, she lost her father to Brain Cancer. Since then Iana has dedicated her life to the support of Caregivers and all those managing life after loss. Outside of her work as the Director of BIPOC Wellbeing for TDP, Iana is a birth and death Doula. She is a Yoga and Meditation teacher and leads Wellness retreats worldwide with her company Bliss Out Retreats. She is currently traveling around the US and Canada in a converted school bus with her husband and pitbull, writing about racial injustice on her blog and talking about designing your life post pandemic on her podcast, The Collective Reset.

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