Health Check Kids: Youth mental health first aid

Youth Mental Health First Aid Training is making a difference. (WJAR)

Youth Mental Health First Aid Training is making a difference.

It’s open to anyone who interacts with youth, which is pretty much everyone.

"My favorite comments have been, 'Everybody should have this program.' 'I wish I'd learned this sooner,'" said Kimberly Lafountain, who is a program mental health first aid coordinator at Bradley Hospital/Gateway Healthcare.

It's an intense eight-hour course that involves a five-step action plan.

"Participants learn the unique risk factors and warning signs of a mental health problem in an adolescent,” said Lafountain. "Sometimes, it's very difficult to tell the difference between what's normal adolescents and when there may be an emerging mental health problem. But what we're really looking for is a change in the youth's behavior."

Recognizing the behavior is the first step. How to approach the young person, she says, is also critical.

"And then from there we talk about to listen non-judgmentally to youth -- how to give reassurance and information, what that looks like, (and) what might be helpful," said Lafountain.

The feedback from the course, she said, is proof it's working.

As an example, a woman who took the course recognized a young neighbor was in trouble.

"She approached the individual and offered her help, offered support using the five-step action plan that we teach in the training and she said the next day, on her car, her neighbor had left her a note that said, 'Thank you so much. You made a difference yesterday,'" said Lafountain.

There are upcoming training sessions that are open to the community.

Click here to learn more.

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