What Could Our Community Look Like?

23 Dresden Teachers Trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid

“I had a student in crisis come to me yesterday, so it was great to have an opportunity to practice the skills right away. I felt much more confident about what to do. And, when it was time to ask, I felt comfortable saying, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’ Good thing I had the training.”

These are the words of Amy Good, Hanover High School special education teacher and student theater advisor, after she was trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) last month.

Katie McDonnell, MSW, and Nancy Nowell, PhD, ran and organizedYMHFA training for twenty-three Dresden school teachers. McDonnell and Nowell are from West Central Behavioral Health Services, a nonprofit, community-based, mental health organization headquartered in Lebanon. The eight-hour certification course focused on teaching Dresden staff how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.

The training provides crucial information and skills to teachers to empower them to help students emotionally, something these role models are eager to do, but often don’t know where to start. As Hanover High School physical education teacher and YMHFA trainee Jennifer Quevedo said, “I deeply feel this is an important topic that tends to evolve rapidly.”

Fifty percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Approximately half of students above that age with a mental health condition drop out of high school. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth aged 10-24. Why are we not talking about it? How can we empower teachers to help combat mental health issues?

Your child’s teacher sees your child more than you do. Chances are – between all of your child’s sports practices, music lessons, debate competitions, and club meetings – you see the most precious person in your life for only a few hours each day. But teachers see students for the majority of their waking hours. And often teachers double as coaches, advisors, mentors, and role models for their students. Teachers have great intentions and care for their students dearly, but do they know how to help their students when mental health issues result in a crisis?

Can the teacher recognize when your child needs help and get him or her the necessary support? Can the teacher tell when your child is over-worked, stressed out, or struggling with anxiety? Can the teacher identify warning signs if your child is contemplating suicide?

“Suicide is more and more of a concern. [This training] was a great reminder that my job is not to fix the problem, but rather to give someone my time and attention and then help them to get the support they need,” said Good.

YMHFA trainer Katie McDonnell echoed Good’s thoughts: “We believe the more people that are trained, the better - in our community and everywhere.  Just like we as a community want as many people trained in basic first aid as possible… so is true for having our community trained in understanding mental health issues and possible warning signs.  We want to combat stigma, increase awareness, and help people get help.”

What would our community look like if all teachers, coaches, and community leaders had the skills to respond to a mental health crisis? If the stigma around mental health, substance use disorders, and suicide was eradicated? If we could all speak honestly and openly about our struggles and hardships? What could our community look like?

Follow along (subscribe here) for the next few months as I explore the broad topic of mental health, the stigma surrounding it, and what you can do to help.

To become trained in Mental Health First Aid, click hereor contact Katie McDonnell at kmcdonnell@wcbh.org 

ImAlive chat line: hopeline.com

Suicide hotline call number: 1-800-273-8255

Suicide text line: Text “GO” to 741741

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