News Article Details

First aid class teaches adults how to help young people with mental health issues

Richmond Times-Dispatch - 3/26/2018

With more and more tragedies occurring in schools, it's clear many young people are grappling with mental health challenges.

It could be depression, anxiety, or ' too commonly ' trauma from an experience with a school shooting. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 teens and young adults live with a mental health condition.

It makes sense why someone might learn CPR ' an emergency involving a heart attack or near-drowning makes clear the necessity for average people to be able to step in to help. But when so many young people are walking around with mental health challenges, often without much support, the same need is there but on the surface is less apparent.

Virginia Home for Boys and Girls is trying to address that need. Since July 2017, it has been offering a Youth Mental Health First Aid Workshop every month.

Karen Rice, the organization's director of therapeutic resources, said the workshop was started to "respond to a demand in the area for knowledge about how to respond to young people that are seeming to have mental health issues, behavioral issues, maybe even substance abuse concerns."

When confronted with someone with mental health concerns, Rice said, many people will step back, sometimes expressing that they would like to help but don't want to make things worse. But mental health first aid is meant to address that fear.

Just like someone trained to perform CPR might not be a health care provider, learning mental health first aid does not make people counselors.

"But you're trained to be able to assist somebody at the beginning of symptoms, when you have that pit of your stomach feeling that something's not right," Rice said. "This class will really help adults who need to reach out and want to reach out to young people, whether it's families or neighbors."

The training, which is free and occurs in eight-hour sessions, focuses on the concept of recovery and that everyone can learn to recover no matter what they are dealing with.

For young people, Rice said, a key part of recovering and building resilience is having protective factors in their lives. She described them as life rings that a teen or young adult can be thrown that will allow them to float when they feel like they're going to drown.

The most important protective factor ' if no others are available ' is having a caring adult in a young person's life. And it doesn't have to be a parent.

"What we hope with the whole mental health first aid concept is that a caring adult will say, '?I've noticed you haven't been going to practice,'" Rice said.

And then the adult could carry that through, connecting teens or young adults who are struggling to resources.

"Of course, with the news the way it is these days and unfortunately the school shootings that occur and people saying later, '?I thought something was wrong, but I didn't know what to do' ' mental health first aid will give you ways to start the conversations," Rice said.

To learn more about the classes, go to https:// mental-health-first-aid-workshops/ or call (804) 270-6566, ext. 159.

Karen Rice teaches a Youth Mental Health First Aid class.

Courtesy Virginia Home for Boys and Girls

Karen Rice teaches a Youth Mental Health First Aid class.

Courtesy Virginia Home for Boys and Girls





(804) 649-6813Twitter: @__KatieOConnor


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