“This is all designed to help train people who work with youth, to hopefully provide the guidance so (youth) can get the assistance they need,” said Mark Daniels, Corbin Independent’s director of support services. “We cover all the different topics, say, a student who’s having some situations involving drugs, depression, suicide – it covers the whole gamut with suicide.”
Besides educating adults about common mental health issues in youth and how to recognize them early, the training also decreases the stigma and myths around these problems, said Kathryn Tillett, project director of AWARE at the Kentucky Department of Education.
“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that one out of every five children experiences a diagnosable mental health disorder” at some point, she said. “When you think about that kind of pervasiveness of an issue, then having everybody a little bit informed about what this is and how to fix it and what resources are available is really helpful.”
Corbin Independent school personnel receive training in Youth Mental Health First Aid.
The district was one of several in the state to receive federal funding for the program.
The AWARE programs are funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which in 2014 gave grants to KDE and several individual Kentucky school districts, Corbin among them, and an education co-op. With its funding, KDE is piloting the AWARE project in Jefferson, Fayette and Pulaski county school systems. Key personnel, both in the school districts and in community agencies that have contact with youth, receive more intensive training and in turn become trainers themselves.
The tool on which the training is based is Youth Mental Health First Aid, a program that uses a core five-step action plan to help students ages 12–18 by:
• Assessing for risk of suicide or harm.
• Listening nonjudgmentally.
• Giving reassurance and information.
• Encouraging appropriate professional help.
• Encouraging self-help and other support strategies.
According to the program’s website, participants in the training do not learn to diagnose or how to provide therapy or counseling.