The urgency to address youth mental health is a national priority and one of the most compelling challenges school districts currently face.  School officials recognize the need to take a proactive approach in identifying mental health issues.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five of our nation’s children (20%) experience the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder (CDC, 2016).  In response to this growing need and with support from a Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education) grant, Talbot County Public Schools is now offering Mental Health First Aid Training, a new Professional Development Opportunity for staff.

Developed in Australia by Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm, the Mental Health First Aid Training and Research Program’s vision was to “create an empowered community providing support to one another in times of mental health problems and mental health crises.”  (Mental Health First Aid USA) This training is based on the concept that teachers have relationships with students that might make them more likely to succeed in getting them to open up and share their concerns or struggles.    

Mental health can be a scary thing to talk about.  One of the main goals of Mental Health First Aid is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health concerns and give individuals, not just mental health professionals, the confidence to intervene when needed.  The course is designed to empower educators by giving them a basic knowledge in order to recognize when someone is struggling, and provide them with skills to assess an individual in crisis.  While MHFA trained educators won’t diagnose a mental health condition, the training can help them to intervene earlier, decrease the likelihood that a crisis will escalate, and help get the individual directed to appropriate treatment options.  

There are separate courses for both Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid. The goals of Youth Mental Health First Aid are two-fold – to teach members of the public how to respond in a mental health emergency with youth and young adults and to offer support to a young person who appears to be in emotional distress. (Youth Mental Health First Aid U.S.A.) Tina Morris, TCPS Drop Out Prevention and Re-engagement Specialist and Emily Moody, Easton Elementary School Family Liaison are certified trainers for the program.  “We continue to see more students struggling with anxiety, depression and other issues in our schools,” Moody explained.  “It’s encouraging to be able to offer training and support to school staff who care so much about our children and want to be able to help.”

More information about the program may be found at





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