Schools partner to bring mental health first aid to school counselors
Youth who bear the invisible wounds of a mental health condition can remain undetected in local schools until a crisis strikes. Following the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, leadership from the metropolitan region’s five taxpayer-supported children’s services funds have collaborated to circumvent such a crisis in our regional schools through improved access to mental health services.
Directors from the St. Louis Mental Health Board, Lincoln County Resource Board, St. Charles County Community & Children’s Resource Board, St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund and Franklin County Resource Board, in partnership with local school districts, hosted a Youth Mental Health First Aid training program last week.
The training program, offered by certified instructors from the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, attracted school counselors and administrators from a 60-mile radius to the St. Louis County Health Department in Berkeley to study risk factors and warning signs of mental illnesses. Participating school personnel learned how to assess a mental health crisis, intervene and connect youth to appropriate levels of care, from professional to self-help.
“Reports following the Newtown tragedy cited student access to mental health services as critical for averting violence in our schools,” said Becky Hoskins, director, Lincoln County Resource Board. “As local directors of children’s services funds, our role is to improve the quality and access of mental health services to our communities’ youth and their families. Partnering with our local school districts and their counselors, who serve on the front lines of violence prevention, is a natural fit, and we consider it our responsibility to support our schools and at-risk children by funding this critical training.”
The Children’s Services Boards approved funding $25,500 of the $55,500 training costs, with the Lincoln County Resource Board (LCRB) providing funding for a representative from each of the county’s school districts to attend this week-long training program. Two counselors from the Lincoln County R-III School District participated in Youth Mental Health First Aid. The board’s funding carries a stipulation that participating school counselors offer a one-day training program for their fellow school personnel three times per year.
Similar to traditional First Aid, Mental Health First Aid provides help to persons suffering from a mental health condition or experiencing a crisis until professional treatment is secured or the crisis is resolved. Participants explored the most common mental health issues affecting adolescents—including anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, disruptive behavior disorders and substance abuse disorders—and learned a five-step action plan to respond to youth exhibiting symptoms of mental illness or an emotional crisis.
About Youth Mental Health First Aid
Youth Mental Health First Aid is a public education program focused for adults who work with youth (ages 12-18) who may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis. The National Council for Behavioral Health, Missouri Department of Mental Health and Maryland Department of Mental Health & Hygiene developed the Mental Health First Aid curriculum. The training program employs role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect young people to professional, peer, social and self-help care.
About the Lincoln County Resource Board (LCRB)
The LCRB serves as an independent oversight board, comprised of volunteer trustees who oversee the establishment, operation and maintenance of mental health services for children, youth and their families in Lincoln County. The LCRB also provides leadership in the development and implementation of early intervention, prevention and life-skills programs. This fall, the LCRB approved approximately $1.1 million in funding for children’s mental health services. The funding will cover 10 non-for-profit agencies in 2014 that provide direct treatment services and early intervention and prevention programming. LCRB-funded services include crisis care; mental health training and support groups; parenting programs; psychiatric services; substance abuse services; therapeutic mentoring; school-based prevention programs and more.