Johnson County Mental Health Center (JCMHC) and Gardner Edgerton School District, USD 231 were selected as one of only 35 in sites in the country to participate in a national pilot of teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA). The National Council for Behavioral Health made the selection with support from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to offer tMHFA to all tenth graders in Gardner Edgerton High School. The training is the first of its kind developed for high school students in the U.S.
“We are thrilled to introduce teen Mental Health First Aid to our community,” said USD 231 District Pam Stranathan, superintendent. “The program will teach high school students to recognize and respond when their friends are experiencing the early stages of a mental health or addiction concern.”
tMHFA is an in-person training designed for high school students to learn about mental illnesses and addictions, particularly how to identify and respond to a developing mental health or substance use problem among their peers. Similar to CPR, students learn a 5-step action plan to help their friends who may be facing a mental health problem or crisis, such as suicide.
The course specifically highlights the important step of involving a responsible and trusted adult. To ensure additional support for students taking the training, Gardner Edgerton School District has also trained over 500 staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid, which is a specialized training in conjunction with tMHFA, for adults working with young people.
“We’re thrilled Gardner Edgerton High School is one of the first U.S. high schools to participate in teen Mental Health First Aid,” said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. Teens trust their friends, so they need to be trained to recognize signs of mental health or substance use problems in their peers. The number one thing a teen can do to support a friend dealing with anxiety or depression is to help the friend seek support from a trusted adult.”
“With teen Mental Health First Aid, we like to say, it’s okay to not be okay,” said Lady Gaga, co-founder of Born This Way Foundation, as she spoke with 16 students who completed the first tMHFA pilot in eight schools across the country. “Together, Born This Way and the National Council have put this program in eight schools. I know for certain that I’m not stopping here,” Lady Gaga continued. “I want the teen Mental Health First Aid program in every school in this country.”
“Through this pilot, Johnson County Mental Health Center is taking an important step towards ensuring that students are able to recognize when a friend or peer might be struggling and to feel confident that they know what to do to help,” said Cynthia Germanotta, president and co-founder of Born This Way Foundation. “Knowing how to spot the signs that someone in our lives is experiencing a mental health challenge and understanding how we can support that person is a basic life skill we all need to have – especially teenagers.”
tMHFA is an evidence-based training program from Australia. The National Council adapted the training with support from Born This Way Foundation and Well Being Trust. The pilot program is being evaluated by researchers from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health to assess its effectiveness. The training will be made available to the public following analysis of the
Council for Behavioral Health video announcement for tMHFA: https://youtu.be/-W-QImR8V7M