McGehee High School is one of 35 schools selected by the National Council for Behavioral Health, with support from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, to participate in the country’s expanded teen Mental Health First Aid pilot program in January 2020.
The school, in partnership with the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, will train more than 100 students next spring. The training is the first of its kind developed for high school students in the U.S.
“We are thrilled to introduce teen Mental Health First Aid to our community,” said Heather Perry, project director and teen Mental Health First Aid instructor at Arkansas Rural Health Partnership. “The program will teach high school students to recognize and respond when their friends are experiencing the early stages of a mental health or addiction problem.”
Teen Mental Health First Aid is an in-person training designed for high school students to learn about mental illnesses and addictions, particularly how to identify and respond to a developing mental health or substance use problem among their peers. Similar to CPR, students learn a 5-step action plan to help their friends who may be facing a mental health problem or crisis, such as suicide.
The course specifically highlights the important step of involving a responsible and trusted adult. To ensure additional support for students taking the training, Arkansas Rural Health Partnership will also train 30 members of school staff in Mental Health First Aid for Adults Working with Young People.
“We’re thrilled McGehee High School is one of the first U.S. high schools to participate in teen Mental Health First Aid,” said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “Teens trust their friends, so they need to be trained to recognize signs of mental health or substance use problems in their peers. The number one thing a teen can do to support a friend dealing with anxiety or depression is to help the friend seek support from a trusted adult.”
“With teen Mental Health First Aid, we like to say, it’s okay to not be okay,” said Lady Gaga, co-founder of Born This Way Foundation, as she spoke with 16 students who completed the first teen Mental Health First Aid pilot in eight schools across the country.
“Together, Born This Way and the National Council have put this program in eight schools. I know for certain that I’m not stopping here,” Lady Gaga said. “I want the teen Mental Health First Aid program in every school in this country.”
Cynthia Germanotta, president and co-founder of Born This Way Foundation, said McGehee High School, through this pilot program, is taking an important step toward ensuring their students are able to recognize when a friend or peer might be struggling and to feel confident that they know what to do to help.
“Knowing how to spot the signs that someone in our lives is experiencing a mental health challenge and understanding how we can support that person is a basic life skill we all need to have – especially teenagers,” Germanotta said.
Teen Memtal Health First Aid is an evidence-based training program from Australia. The National Council adapted the training with support from Born This Way Foundation and Well Being Trust.
The pilot program is being evaluated by researchers from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health to assess its effectiveness. The training will be made available to the public following analysis of the pilot study. The training for McGehee High School is being implemented in partnership with the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership.
About the National Council for Behavioral Health
The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with 3,100 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and nearly 2 million Americans have been trained. To learn more, visit TheNationalCouncil.org and MentalHealthFirstAid.org.