At a special Youth Mental Health First Aid training on Tuesday, about 60 teachers, counselors and police officers from across Spring ISD and neighboring communities had the opportunity to learn strategies to help young people struggling with a mental health or substance abuse problem.
The daylong event was held as part of a series of year-round sessions by the Spring ISD department of guidance and counseling, and the National Council for Behavioral Health. Participants learned tips to identify when a young person might be struggling and how to connect them with the right resources when needed.
“We want to make sure that our families and staff have all the resources they need to help students who might be suffering from a mental health or substance abuse problem,” said Denise Zimmermann, district director of Mental Health and Related Services. “It’s important to get the message out that there’s no stigma attached to depression or needing to talk to someone. Adolescence is a tough time and it’s OK to get help.”
Just as CPR helps those without clinical training assist an individual having a heart attack, Youth Mental Health First Aid prepares participants to interact with a young person experiencing a mental health crisis. Specifically, the training provides a five-step action plan that guides attendees on how to reach out and offer support.
Among Tuesday’s attendees at the Spring ISD Learning Center was parent Natosha N. Wilson, who also is a licensed psychotherapist.
“We must be effective in helping our kids,” said Wilson, who understands first-hand the importance of treating people with mental health. “We all have unique and similar stories and experiences, and dealing with mental health is very important.”
She said the training was a first step to keeping kids safe by talking about the challenges.
“This opens up those lines to all of us who are engaged with children. To learn what they are facing, what teachers are facing. And as a parent, we need to work together to bridge that gap,” Wilson said.
Zimmermann stressed that the training is intended to teach people how to stabilize a mental health situation until an expert can diagnose the problem. Since the district began offering the classes last spring, more than 150 people have participated. Future trainings are scheduled for Aug. 30, Sept. 27, Oct.25, Nov. 15 and Dec. 13 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Spring ISD Learning Center.
“The training educates and empowers people, bringing a better understanding to the stigma behind mental health through education,” Zimmermann said.
For more information and to register to participate in one of the free upcoming Youth Mental Health First Aid training courses, parents and community members may contact Jennifer Ontiveros at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 281-891-6383.