Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

Dr Angela Zagoren – Director of Counselling and Wellbeing Health 

Most of us have probably taken part in a first aid training course before. As a community we recognise the need for early detection of physical health problems and immediate intervention. When it comes to mental health, however, many of us lack the basic skills to confidently identify the presence of mental illness, much less support someone experiencing problems.

We know through research undertaken with Australian child and adolescent populations that boys are more likely than girls to experience mental health problems (16.3% compared with 11.5%). Boys are also less likely to ask for assistance due to a variety of barriers that we are trying to address here at TSS. The two biggest obstacles to seeking help include social stigma and the pervasive stereotype that strong males should silently and stoically carry on without burdening others. We are targeting both of these barriers with educational programs that: deconstruct traditional views of masculinity; increase mental health knowledge and emotional literacy; and challenge the notion that mental health is synonymous with personal weakness.

One such program is the Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Training course delivered to staff last term.  The program involved fourteen TSS staff members dedicating two days to learning the most common mental health issues faced by adolescents, how to determine the signs of mental health problems and how to assist a young person during this challenging time by guiding him toward appropriate support.

Next year, we will continue to offer this intensive training course to staff and are excited to launch the Teen Mental Health First Aid program for TSS students. In recognition that young people have a preference for sharing problems with peers, the TMHFA course is a parallel educational program with the teacher course designed to educate young people on how to recognise the signs of a developing mental health problem and to get a responsible and trusted adult to take over as necessary. We look forward to bringing you more news about these programs and their impact within our school next year.

My sincere thanks to the staff involved. TSS is a busy environment and dedicating two full days away from duties at such a busy time in the term shows their strong commitment to this very worthwhile initiative.

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