Educators learn to help teens in crisis

May. 19, 2014 @ 06:10 PM

Tandra Henderson was desperate for some type of local training that would educate teachers and school administrators about mental health issues facing adolescents.

When she heard about the Youth Mental Health First Aid Training in Henderson, she made sure to be there.

“We are always looking for mental health resources for our students,” said Henderson, the Vance County Schools behavioral support specialist. “A lot of them have mental health issues that are undiagnosed. I work in the Exceptional Children department, specifically, but we also work with children who are not identified as EC because of the symptoms they exhibit. We are always looking for ways to become self-sustaining so we don’t have to always rely on outside resources.”

About 25 people from Vance and neighboring counties attended the training Wednesday, which was administered through the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; it was meant to provide adults with skills to help adolescents age 12 to 18 years old experiencing mental health or addiction challenges or those who are in crisis.

The Mental Health First Aid program is a key component of the state’s Crisis Solution Initiative, which aims to improve crisis prevention services and reduce emergency department use and wait times for psychiatric and addiction treatment placement.

“I would love for some of the guidance counselors, teachers and social workers to have that training so that at each school they can have some small crisis unit to divert a crisis before we have to call some outside agency to assist,” Henderson said.

She said she learned how to identify indicators a student may be experiencing some type of mental illness and what to do next.

The state health department estimates about 150,000 visits to emergency departments in North Carolina are related to an acute psychiatric or addictive disorder crisis.

Roughly 13 percent of patients with a mental health crisis treated in an emergency department will return within 30 days.

State health and human services Secretary Aldona Wos attended the training at Perry Memorial Library on Wednesday.

“There is a huge need in North Carolina in reference to behavioral health, and the world of behavioral health intersects with substance abuse in a lot of areas, and that intersects with education, with the social services department, the prisons,” Wos said. “If you can, in any way, make an impact on getting people care — especially on the front end — you can change people’s lives tremendously. The path they are going on, if you can change their path, the benefit for them in their lives is immeasurable.”

April Williams, school social worker at Warren County Schools, said she came to the training because she feels mental health is taking over the education system.

“A lot of our kids — if they are a part of Exceptional Children or not — have mental health issues that are coming in, and we see it’s really affecting their education,” she said. “They are not able to focus in class and listen to what their teachers have to teach them.”

She said the training taught her what having a mental illness truly means.

“I would love for this training to come to Warren County,” she said. “We need this more in rural America.”

Iris Johnson, a grandmother of three, said she came because two of her grandchildren have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

“These programs are very instrumental to me because I was one of those parents that was in denial,” said Johnson, who is the Student Success Center coordinator for Halifax Community College. “I came here to get more information about how I can help not just my grandchildren but all children.”

Additional trainings, such as the Youth Mental Health First Aid Training recently held in Henderson (“Educators learn to help teens in crisis,” May 14), can be scheduled by contacting Gina DeMent of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions at


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