I first took the Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes more than twenty years ago. Over the years, I’ve taken these same courses several times. While a requirement for the volunteer work I do with the Girl Scouts, I’ve always felt the classes made me a more useful citizen in general. In the case of an emergency I felt prepared to help – because of the training I’d had, I could make a difference, possibly save a life.

Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of taking a new course offered by NAMI MN called Youth Mental Health First Aid. While I recognize mental health is just as important as physical health, it never dawned on me that, as an “average Joe”, I could learn skills to make a difference to someone in a mental health crisis.

Did you know? In the state of Minnesota, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 10- to 14-year-olds and the second leading cause of death for 15- to 34-year-olds. Source: Minnesota Department of Health

Youth Mental Health First Aid introduces participants to the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, builds understanding of the importance of early intervention, and most importantly – teaches individuals how to help a youth in crisis or experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. Participants learn a core five-step action plan to support an adolescent developing signs and symptoms of mental illness or in an emotional crisis: Assess for risk of suicide or harm; Listen non-judgmentally; Give reassurance and information; Encourage appropriate professional help; Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

I attended the Youth Mental Health First Aid course with my Project Home colleagues Donna Franklin and Divine Baker. We were so impressed with this course, not only the material presented, but how it was interactively presented.

In line with the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches’ mission to work to create a better East Metro for all – I came out of that day with a very specific goal – to bring this training to more people in the East Metro community, especially those who work with youth. To that end, watch our website for training opportunities, as we begin to partner the great people at NAMI MN to host several of these trainings over the next few months.

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