PHOENIXVILLE, PA — The Chester County Technical College High School (TCHS) Pickering Campus reports it is the first school in Chester County to complete a Youth Mental Health First Aid program offered by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Over 60 TCHS Pickering students, along with seven TCHS staff members, were trained by Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) employees who are certified Mental Health First Aid Coordinators.
In partnership with the Born This Way Foundation, the Youth Mental Health First Aid program was brought to the United States by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. The program, which teaches teens in grades 10-12 how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health issues and substance use challenges in their friends and peers, has reached more than 2.5 million people across the United States. The goal of the program is to remove the fear of starting conversations about mental health and provide students with the skills needed to reach out and provide initial help to someone who may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis.
“During a time when we are seeing an increase in mental health challenges amongst teens, it is invaluable to learn how to support a peer through a crisis and non-crisis situation by using the Teen Mental Health First Aid Action Plan – look, ask, listen and connect with an adult. It’s also so important to keep in mind that your friendships are very important,” said Krista Kapczynski, CCIU training and consultation specialist, who helped TCHS Pickering staff and students become trained and certified in mental health first aid.
Over the course of six weeks, TCHS students and staff participated in six 45-minute sessions. These sessions touched on common signs and symptoms of mental illness; common signs and symptoms of substance use; common signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis such as suicide; how to open the conversation about mental illness and addiction with friends; the impact school violence and bullying have on mental health; and how to seek help from a responsible and trusted adult.
Additionally, TCHS students and staff learned how to create an action plan for helping a friend, including: looking for warning signs, asking how they are, listening to them, connecting them to an adult and remembering that their friendship is important.
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