A free, day-long course teaching adults how to intervene with youth experiencing mental health issues will again come to Essex, with three events scheduled here over the next year.
Community FIRST, a statewide collaboration between state mental health agencies and community partners, will host a series of Youth Mental Health First Aid & Suicide Awareness trainings thanks to a partnership with Essex CHIPS, with the first scheduled for October 8.
The courses introduce participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health issues while using role-playing and other simulations to teach people about early intervention. Covered topics include anxiety, depression, non-suicidal self-injury, ADHD, eating disorders, substance use, crisis intervention and de-escalation, suicide assessment and prevention.
Lance Metayer, a team leader with the Northwestern Counseling and Support Services, began teaching the courses in 2015 as part of a three-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The administration again awarded the grant to the Vermont Care Network last year, and more than 2,500 people have taken the training since it first began.
Metayer views the initiative a way to get people thinking about mental health in the same way they do physical health.
“We’re all trained on how to intervene on someone who’s having a heart attack,” he said. “It’s not the same for someone with depression or in crisis.”
This year marks the third time the trainings will be held locally. Justin Hoy, director of prevention and youth services at Essex CHIPS, said the interactive trainings help educators, youth workers and beyond to understand the difference between certain mental health issues and “help them build a knowledge base” so they feel more confident when intervening. Such support has become even more vital in the age of social media, where youth are more connected to the world around them than ever before.
“The climate in general in the county as it is is pretty daunting. It can lead to a negative effect on youth through their parents or other people or even what they’re seeing on the news,” Hoy said.
One in five teens and young adults lives with a mental health condition, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. And of youth with major depression, more than 60 percent do not receive any mental health treatment, according to Mental Health America.
Metayer the chance to combat the stigma surrounding mental health drives his work. He said he hopes the trainings play a role in changing the way our culture views mental health and encourages more people to come forward. And while the fact that there’s “a thing called mental health first aid” shows him that society is gradually moving toward that goal, he said there’s still a long way to go.
“Because I know there are people who still feel uncomfortable and really ashamed of living with a mental illness,” he said.
Training sessions are limited to 25 participants. The next training is scheduled for October 8, with two dates also set for 2020: March 11 and July 17. Locations are yet to be determined. Anyone interested in signing up can do so at bit.ly/2KvJgxJ.