DHHS Launches Youth Mental Health First Aid to Address Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Issues
Statewide effort will train adults to identify symptoms in youth
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos today recognized the first group of instructors for the state's new Youth Mental Health First Aid program. After a week of training, 32 individuals, representing 95 counties across North Carolina, will now return to their communities and train other adults who regularly deal with young people to recognize the signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions.
DHHS committed to implementing Youth Mental Health First Aid as part of the N.C. Center for Safer Schools, established by Governor Pat McCrory as a centralized and customer-focused school safety and crisis prevention resource. The Center sponsored a series of public forums around the state, which yielded valuable lessons about the need for a stronger support system for troubled middle and high school aged youth.
"We heard from teachers and parents that adults in our communities often do not know how to intervene when it comes to mental health and substance abuse issues," Secretary Wos said. "Through these individuals, we have the potential to equip thousands of North Carolinians each year with the skills to recognize symptoms, intervene appropriately and most importantly, help adolescents who are struggling."
According to Dave Richard, director of the DHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, this type of community-based support is a key component of the state's effort to improve services for individuals in mental health and substance abuse crisis.
"If we are to be successful in helping young people stay out of crisis, we need others around them to be alert to the warning signs," Richard said. "Through the course, adults can learn a five-step action plan to help youth in crisis and non-crisis situations. That may also include guiding them to treatment options in the community."
More information on Youth Mental Health First Aid is available at http://crisissolutionsnc.org/youth-mental-health-first-aid/.