In this academic year alone, Josselyn Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Trainers have equipped more than 750 adults and more than 1200 teens with the tools to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental health challenges and substance use disorders.

As the number of teenagers reporting poor mental health increases, so do the burdens on the systems designed to support them. In particular, school systems are scrambling to keep up with the increased need for further mental health care support.

According to recent federal data, of the 5.4 million students nationwide enrolled in school almost 40 percent did not have a school psychologist to turn to during the first year of the pandemic. Additionally, only 8 percent of school districts met the recommended ratio of one school psychologist to 500 students. Only 14 percent met the recommended ratio of one school counselor to 250 students.[1]

This means the burden of care often falls to teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and other staff in the school system.

Sponsored by the National Council on Mental Wellbeing, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an international program that can be an important tool for school leaders to be better equipped to help address the challenges that young people are facing.

At Josselyn, we affectionately call it CPR for the brain as MHFA teaches participants how to understand, recognize, and respond to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge.

Recently, Waukegan Public School District 60 held training for their entire paraprofessional team. More than 230 staff from 23 schools ranging from elementary through high school learned the fundamentals of first aid for mental health.  

Stephanie Reuter, Director of Multi-Tiered System of Supports for District 60, said, “I think it’s critical that our paraprofessionals and other support team members from all of our schools are receiving this training. They are an important part of caring for our students alongside our classroom teachers.”

Josselyn’s Maggie Nash, Director of Mental Health Education, oversees Josselyn’s MHFA training program. “It is inspiring to see how many school systems – from administrators, to classroom teachers, to support staff are taking the youth mental health crisis seriously. And they are proactive in responding to the needs by bringing MHFA training to their staff and teens,” shared Nash.

This school year alone, Josselyn MHFA Trainers have equipped more than 750 adults who work with youth and more than 1,200 teens, enrolled as sophomores and older, with the tools to recognize mental health challenges, listen, and lead tough conversations, as well as how and when to refer someone to appropriate professional help. Josselyn is entering its third year of a five-year federal grant to provide training throughout the community, with a special focus on youth and the adults who surround them. You can see the communities that have received MHFA training from Josselyn here.

Nash added, “It’s not just about recognizing the signs in youth, it’s also about acknowledging the challenges that adults in education are facing. “It’s very stressful for educators to be working in an environment where the Surgeon General has issued an advisory on the youth mental health crisis in America. It’s stressful because most educators were not trained to know the signs. MHFA helps adults learn how to confidently take that first step.”


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