Program supported in part by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation
Region – Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, Inc. (SYFS), in collaboration with Grafton High School (GHS), will participate this school year in a new program designed to help teens learn, identify and respond to mental health or substance use among their peers.
The teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) pilot program is run by the National Council for Behavioral Health and supported in part by pop star Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
GHS is one of 40 sites selected to take part in the second cohort of the pilot program.
The nonprofit SYFS offers a full slate of mental health services to Shrewsbury as well as running a Youth Mental Health First Aid program in other communities across the state.
SYFS Executive Director Christine Mowry expressed her appreciation to the Grafton Public School officials for agreeing to partner with SYFS on the new teen mental health program.
“We have been working so hard to create a safety net across the commonwealth with Youth Mental Health First Aid training for teachers,” she said. “With support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, we have trained almost 2,000 adults. We believe wholeheartedly in the impact of this program and though it is vital to educate adults to recognize the signs, we also know that teens turn to each other first when they are struggling.”
Mowry also expressed her excitement to be working with the Grafton team as SYFS implements the training with the entire sophomore class. In preparation, SYFS will be offering Youth Mental Health First Aid classes for all parents, a program designed to teach adults the signs and symptoms of mental health problems or substance use in teens and how to intervene.
“We hope that Shrewsbury and other communities will also participate in this program once it rolls out nationally,” she added.
tMHFA is an in-person training designed for high school students to learn about mental illnesses and addictions and how to identify and respond to a developing mental health or substance use problem among their peers.
Similar to CPR, students learn a five-step action plan to help their friends who may be facing a mental health problem or crisis, such as suicide.
“We are eager to educate our teens on the signs of a developing mental health or substance use problem and provide them the tools to seek the help of a trusted adult,” said James Cummings, Grafton Public Schools superintendent. “We are thankful to Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services for sharing their experience and expertise with our community.”
The course specifically highlights the important step of involving a responsible and trusted adult.
To ensure additional support for students taking the training, SYFS has also trained many of Grafton Public Schools staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid.
tMHFA is an evidence-based training program from Australia. The National Council adapted the training with support from Born This Way Foundation and Well Being Trust. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health are assessing the pilot program to evaluate its effectiveness. The training will be available to the public following analysis of the pilot study.