Students taking health class at the high school are getting a chance to learn about the importance of mental health. During the first two weeks in January, students will be learning Teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) taught by school counselor Diane Blinn and high school health teacher Lindsay Steenland. Both Blinn and Steenland have received special training and are certified to teach the course by Mental Health First Aid USA, a training program offered by the National Council for Behavioral Health.
tMHFA is an evidence-based training that teaches high school students the skills they need to understand and express their emotions while being able to help their friends deal with mental health challenges.
Students learn healthy ways to take care of their mental health through action plans. The program helps them recognize what they enjoy doing and figure out how that activity can be used to recharge themselves emotionally. This helps them understand how to take care of themselves when they feel overwhelmed or sad.
The program also gives students tools to be able to recognize changes in their friends who might be struggling mentally. These indicators include changes in weight, changes in appearance, mood swings, loss of interests and withdrawal from social activities. The class then discusses what they should do if they notice the changes in themselves or their friend(s).
The importance of early intervention with the help of an adult is stressed throughout the course. “When teens try to help their friends alone they might feel like they are taking on too much. The class gives students resources they can turn to both in and outside of school,” said Blinn.
Steenland and Blinn then walk the students through questions such as: When should I ask for help? What does a mental health professional do? What happens when you visit a mental health professional? How much does it cost? What can therapy actually do for you?
“A person’s overall wellness is based on physical, mental and social health. The tMHFA course focuses on the social and mental aspects,” said Steenland. “I like that the course is authentic and gives real-life examples. The feedback from our students has been very positive and engaging.”
At the end of each class students can privately submit questions on their Chromebook to Steenland. They also complete a “check-in ticket” at the end of each class where they can privately let Blinn know how they are feeling and if they want to schedule a meeting with her.
“We are teaching students that healing themselves and having empathy for others is a superpower that everyone is capable of,” Blinn said.
To learn more about this topic, visit the following resources:
- Teens Health – http://teenshealth.org/teen/your_mind
- National Alliance on Mental Illness – www.nami.org/Find-Support/Teens-and-Young-Adults
- National Institute of Mental Health – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/index.shtml
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Crisis Text Line – Text “MHFA” to 741741 for free 24/7 crisis counseling. visit www.crisistextline.org