According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50 percent of all mental illness begins by age 14, and what’s more, one in five children ages 13 to 18 are either currently struggling with a mental health issue or will at some point during childhood.
Those are certainly staggering statistics, and what may be even more startling is the fact that these national statistics don’t exclude west Georgia’s and east Alabama’s young people — and many of them, too, may be struggling with a mental health issue.
To ensure that our community’s young residents have access mental health support and resources, Willowbrooke at Tanner, the behavioral health service of Tanner Health System, offers a public education program to train adults in the community on how to help children and adolescents who are struggling with mental health issues, providing these children with the best opportunity to succeed in school, at home and throughout their lives.
The program, Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), is designed to teach individuals who work and interact with young people to respond when a child is experiencing a behavioral health challenge or crisis.
At the helm of Tanner’s program is Kellie Roberts, Youth Mental Health First Aid program coordinator for Willowbrooke at Tanner.
Roberts hosts training throughout the region for child advocates such as social workers, school counselors, members of the Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as other individuals who may regularly interact with children, including church youth group leaders, teachers, coaches, school counselors, family members, EMS first responders, other medical professionals and more.
Over the past two years, Roberts has taught nearly 100 Youth Mental Health First Aid courses, an achievement that has earned her a spot as one of this year’s Top 20 Mental Health First Aid Instructors in the nation.
She and her team have trained in counties all over west Georgia, including Bartow, Carroll, Coweta, Douglas, Haralson Paulding and Polk counties, making a huge impact in the community and in the lives of many young people around the region.
“We have conducted 109 trainings, trained 1,950 individuals in the community and have had more than 1,000 children referred to services in this area due to members of the community taking our Youth Mental Health First Aid training program,” said Roberts.
Roberts explained that the program doesn’t teach participants how to diagnose a mental health issues; rather, it teaches them to utilize a five-step action plan for how to help and support young people in both non-crisis and crisis situations, such as experiencing thoughts of suicide, self-harming or substance abuse.
Other topics covered in the course include anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders.
“Our program’s purpose is to really bring awareness to mental health issues in our community and train on how to recognize and appropriately address the mental health issues and challenges that are common among our young people,” said Roberts. “With these training courses, we can get more information out there and really make a difference in someone’s life.”
More information about the Youth Mental Health First Aid program at Tanner is available online at www.tanner.org/ymhfa or by calling 470.261.4555. To find an upcoming YMHFA class to attend, go to www.tanner.org/youth-mental-health-first-aid. Learn more about Willowbrooke at Tanner’s mental health and substance abuse programs at www.WillowbrookeAtTanner.org.
To learn more about hosting a Youth Mental Health First Aid training session at your business, church or organization, call 470.261.4555 or email Roberts at email@example.com.