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Youth Mental Health First Aid

Diane Park - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) is a program designed to help youth by educating those who regularly interact with young people to identify and act on signs that the young person is experiencing a mental health challenge, mental disorder, or a mental health crisis. The eight-hour course teaches participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescents, including anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, disruptive behavior disorders, and substance use disorder. It builds an understanding of the importance of early intervention, and teaches individuals how to help an adolescent who is in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge. Participants do not learn to diagnose, nor how to provide therapy or counseling; rather, participants learn to support a youth developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis.

Youth Mental Health First Aid primarily covers the issues facing adolescents. The research and information presented are for the ages of 12-18.

Adults who regularly interact with adolescents are the primary audience for Youth Mental Health First Aid. This includes:

  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • School administrators and other school personnel
  • Coaches
  • Camp counselors
  • After-school program staff
  • Scout and other youth leaders
  • Youth mentors
  • Youth volunteers
  • Youth faith leaders
  • Health professionals

Mental Health First Aid is an international program proven to be effective. Peer-reviewed studies published in Australia, where the program originated, show that individuals trained in the program:

  • Grow their knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions
  • Can identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with a mental illness or addiction
  • Increase their confidence in and likelihood to help an individual in distress
  • Show increased mental wellness themselves

Studies also show that the program reduces the social distance created by negative attitudes and perceptions of individuals with mental illnesses.


MCF has received a grant from SAMHSA to provide YMHFA trainings in Maryland. This enables us to provide the training for just $15/person (to cover part of the cost of the manual). Typically a YMHFA course costs $119/person.

In addition, MCF received a grant from Cecil County to provide ten trainings in the County at no charge to participants.

MCF currently has eight staff trained as trainers to provide YMHFA: three on the Eastern Shore, two in western Maryland and three in central Maryland. So far, our staff have done 16 trainings to a total of 243 people. We have provided trainings to many different types of groups, including: religious education teachers, physician assistants, residential treatment center staff, and Department of Parks and Recreation staff. Other classes have included parents, emergency medical technicians, social workers and school teachers, to name just a few. We provide both closed trainings for specific groups, and trainings open to the general public.

The courses consistently get high marks in evaluations, with most participants saying that they "strongly agree" that the course made them feel more confident to:

  • Recognize the signs that a young person may be dealing with a mental health challenge or crisis
  • Reach out to a young person who may be dealing with a mental health challenge
  • Assist a young person who may be dealing with a mental health problem or crisis to seek professional help
To Schedule a YMHFA Training in Your Area...

MCF is available to conduct trainings for specific groups. We recommend a class size of between 15 and 25 participants per training. We also require a facility in which to provide the training, with tables to accommodate the number of participants. Classes can be done in one 8-hour session (plus ½ hour for lunch) or two 4-hour sessions. If you know of any groups that might want to schedule a training, please contact Ann Geddes, or (410) 794-6953.

In addition, MCF will be doing a number of general trainings over the course of the year. These will be advertised in our Newsletter and to our email subscribers. Watch for future announcements.

The Mental Health Association of Maryland also is available to schedule trainings. For information contact Alethia O'Hara, or (443) 901-1550 ext. 222.

Mental Health First Aid in Maryland

Maryland has played a pivotal role in bringing Mental Health First Aid from Australia, where it was originally created, to America. Mental Health First Aid USA is coordinated nationally by the Mental Health Association of Maryland in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, along with the National Council for Behavioral Health and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

In addition, to training instructors and managing the Maryland training program, The Mental Health Association of Maryland also disseminates the curriculum and support materials to Mental Health First Aid instructors across the country through a consumer and family-operated National Distribution center.

Funding for YMHFA in Maryland recently has been expanded with the award of a Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Project AWARE will bring Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings to educators and community partners in Baltimore, Dorchester and Somerset Counties, as well as other school districts.

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