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THURSDAY, OCT 18, 2018

Statewide Initiative Responds to Need for Youth Mental Health First Aidâ„¢ Instructors Throughout New York

Albany, NY -- The New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors (CLMHD) will launch its 5th annual Youth Mental Health First Aid™ (YMHFA) instructor training program on Monday, October 22nd.  The goal of this initiative is to reduce the stigma of mental illness by teaching community members how to immediately respond to youth struggling with a mental health/substance abuse crisis.

YMHFA is a nationally-recognized program designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis.  Graduates of the training are certified to teach the 8-hour program to a variety of audiences, including educators and school staff, law enforcement, foster parents, and community members. The instructor certification training is conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health, which manages the program across the country.

Mental health is one of the top health problems for children and teens.  According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, half of all mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75 percent of mental health conditions develop by age 24.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth aged 15 to 19 in New York, and more than 200,000 New York children and teens (or one in five) have a mental health diagnosis.   Because the symptoms of mental illness can be difficult to detect, friends and family of someone who appears to be in crisis may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment. 

Dr. Ann Sullivan, Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health said, “CLMHD’s “Train the Trainers” initiative is teaching parents, educators and students how they can help a young person who is in crisis or experiencing mental health or substance use issues.  Early intervention is critically important for young people facing these issues. CLMHD’s initiative is helping participants better understand the risk factors and warning signs and improving the odds that young people in crisis with receive the treatment they need sooner.”

The week-long intensive YMHFA instructor training offers participants an introduction to the 8-hour YMHFA course, an overview of adult learning styles and teaching strategies, and provides in-depth instruction on implementing and managing the program in diverse communities.  The 8-hour YMHFA course, designed for adults who regularly interact with adolescents, has been shown to improve knowledge about mental health topics, reduce stigma, and increase first aid actions towards teens with mental health challenges.  The training reviews typical adolescent development, introduces common mental health challenges and teaches a five-step action plan for helping young people in both non-crisis and crisis situations including suicidal behavior, self-injury, trauma, and panic attacks.

“The Conference is excited to have made such a positive impact in reducing the stigma of mental illness across New York State,” said Michael Orth, MSW, Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Mental Health and Chair of the Children and Families Committee for the NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors.  “This important educational effort goes beyond emergency intervention to helping people understand the shroud of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and substance misuse. We anticipate these new instructors will have a great impact throughout New York State, and will be key players in improving mental health literacy.”

Since Fall 2014, CLMHD has spearheaded a statewide YMHFA “Train the Trainer” initiative by bringing trainers from the National Council for Behavioral Health to the Capital Region to conduct a week-long intensive YMHFA instructor certification program.  In order to maintain their certification, instructors are required to provide three (3) YMHFA trainings per year in their respective communities.

The New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors (the Conference) is a statewide membership organization consisting of the Commissioner/Director of each of the state’s 57 county mental hygiene departments (encompassing mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities) and the mental hygiene department of the City of New York.   The Conference is an affiliate of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).

The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with our 2,500 member organizations, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than eight million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained more than 500,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities.