The room was completely quiet—a surprise given the variety of people in attendance. Teachers, advocates, counselors, and elected officials are often not left speechless. At least one person was visibly crying and the rest were on the verge of tears.
There were 8 of us together for an all-day Youth Mental Health First Aid training. Described as “CPR for the mind,” Youth Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based program offered by Tri-County Health Network. Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach anyone who interacts with adolescents (family members, teachers, neighbors, community members, library workers, coaches, anyone!) how to help a young person experiencing a mental health or substance abuse concern or crisis.
What would you do if the babysitter that you had relied on for years suddenly started coming to work late and seemed disengaged? What if your son became withdrawn from your family and was also not spending time with friends? As a teacher, what would you do if a student came to class with cuts on her arms or wrists? What if you were out walking your dog and saw a young neighbor having a panic attack?
These are the types of situations that Youth Mental Health First Aid prepares its graduates for. Graduates (known as First Aiders) learn a 5-step action plan to help young adults in crisis and non-crisis situations. The program empowers First Aiders to recognize the symptoms and warning signs of a concern or crisis, become more aware of changes to youth that are not a part of “typical” adolescence, and understand the importance of language when interacting with youth. Youth Mental Health First Aid is accessible, informative, and engaging.
After several hours of interactive exercises, role playing, video clips, and lively discussion, the silence and a feeling of intense sadness overcame my Youth Mental Health First Aid cohort after we watched a video clip about youth suicide. The clip reinforced what we were learning in the course—there are typically warning signs of a crisis, often opportunities to intervene, and right questions to ask a young adult. Fortunately, I walked out of my Youth Mental Health First Aid training feeling prepared to recognize a young adult in crisis and confident in my ability to intervene.
Youth Mental Health First Aid provides invaluable information, tools, and resources that can empower adults in our community to support a youth in crisis. I would encourage anyone who interacts with young adults to sign up for a course by contacting TCHNetwork at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up as an individual and we are also available to come to your organization or business to conduct a workshop for your staff.