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LVJUSD Teens Learn How to Help One Another in Crisis

October 31, 2019 - Livermore, CA-Sophomores at Livermore High School are learning how to help their friends who may be facing a mental health challenge or crisis. In September, Livermore High was selected as one of only three sites in California to participate in a pilot study for Teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA). Similar to CPR, tMHFA outlines a 5-step action plan that students follow to help their classmates get connected to a trusted adult and to needed services. 

tMHFA is an evidence-based training program from Australia that was adapted by the National Council for Behavioral Health and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to teach high school students to recognize and respond when their friends are experiencing symptoms of a mental health or substance use challenges.   

Mental health topics are not altogether unfamiliar to our 10th grade students. As freshmen, mental health is discussed in Freshman in Transition (FIT) classes and is revisited when students take Health, a required course for graduation often taken during a student’s freshman year. “The exposure to mental health topics prior to 10th grade provides a great foundation for tMHFA to build on. Students are able to take their understanding to a deeper level and feel empowered knowing they are learning skills to help their friends,” shared Deborah Rogers, LHS Psychologist and tMHFA Instructor.

This initial training has resulted in immediate student impact with lasting results. “Students have responded well to the trainings. I have been impressed by the amount of great questions students are asking,” stated tMHFA instructor and LHS counselor, Zachary Radecke. Each session concluded with the completion of an “exit ticket,” providing students an opportunity to privately request follow-up with a mental health professional. In several situations, students indicated that they or a friend were currently facing a crisis, and intervention was provided. “We were able to address the needs of these students in real time because of the trust built between the tMHFA instructors and students through this process,” stated LVJUSD’s tMHFA Program Coordinator, Dr. Liisa Hanninen-Danner.

As part of the pilot, Livermore High School is participating in a research study being conducted by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Research indicates that high school students trained in tMHFA increase their understanding of mental health, are more confident about helping their peers, and report less psychological distress, themselves. “Now more than ever, mental health education is essential for our students’ well-being and success. It’s hard for students to learn when they are suffering in silence,” said Superintendent Kelly Bowers, Ed.D. 

More than half of Livermore High School sophomores completed their Teen Youth Mental Health First Aid training on October 31, 2019. The remaining 10th graders will be trained in January 2020. By early next year, more than 460 students will have earned certification in Teen Mental Health First Aid. Additionally, with the support of two Federal Mental Health Awareness Training grants, LVJUSD has been able to broaden its network of support for students through the training of staff and parents in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), a program designed to teach adults to recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder in youth 12-18 years of age, and how to go about ensuring that the adolescent receives help. YMHFA classes are offered in both English and in Spanish.

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