mental health training

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COLUMBIA – The city’s Youth Advisory Council discussed ways to expand a program designed to train people to identify when an adolescent is showing signs of a mental illness or crisis.

The target students of the eight-hour Youth Mental Health First Aid course are people who work with adolescents ages 12 to 18. That includes teachers, coaches, social workers, leaders of faith communities and even some student leaders.

The program made its way to the city for the first time last year, when the University of Missouri Extension and Children’s Grove reached out to Mental Health First Aid USA. Students at Battle High School took the course and said they wanted to see it grow in the future.

“It’s a very hard topic to discuss, and we spent so much time on it,” said Battle High School student David Nhek. “I can see the effect of the training right after it ended. I’m more self aware and understanding of a bunch of mental health issues.”

This year, high school students can participate in the training for free, since Children’s Grove is fronting the $25 fee.

Nhek said he recommends the training to his peers.

“You’re not only going to help others, in a way you can learn how to help yourself, because we all somehow struggle with mental issues at some point,” he said.

According to Mental Health First Aid USA’s website, the training is meant to help a person assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis, like contemplating suicide. The website says mental health first aid is meant to help support an individual until “appropriate professional help” arrives, similar to when someone who is CPR-certified helps until medical professionals arrive.

To date, more than 200,000 people in all 50 states have been trained, according to the website.

It says the training not only helps people understand the variety of mental illnesses and the risk factors surrounding them, but also how to access community resources and how to share those resources with at risk individuals.

Battle High School's gifted education specialist, Matt Leuchtmann said, “Mental health for so long has been stigmatized as something negative, or something you need to hide or keep away. Boone County as a whole is doing a wonderful job breaking down that stigma.”

The program has an outlined action plan with five steps:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies 

Anyone is welcome to come to the training on March 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1012 N. Highway UU in Columbia.

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