Tuesday, November 3, 2015

McDowell Institute: What is Mental Health First Aid for Youth?

BU’s McDowell Institute is becoming increasingly involved with Mental Health First Aid – Youth, both on campus and statewide through its membership with the Community of Practice on School-based Behavioral Health (CoP SBBH).

Mental Health First Aid – Youth (MHFA-Y) is help offered to a person (in this case a youth) developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. MHFA-Y is provided until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis is resolved. MHFA-Y is not a substitute for counseling, medical care, peer support or treatment.

 In Pennsylvania, a process has been established for training to become certified in MHFA-Y, similar to credentialing in first aid through the American Red Cross. This training to receive a certificate as a mental health first aider is eight hours in length.
There is also an established process for someone to become a credentialed instructor in MHFA-Y, requiring one full week of intensive training. The process has numerous, required fidelity/treatment integrity metrics relevant to training after one is credentialed as an instructor in MHFA-Y. Schools across the Commonwealth are increasingly exploring training and credentialing of teachers and other school staff to meet the Act 71requirements associated with suicide prevention.

MHFA-Y is an offshoot of Mental Health First Aid for Adults. It is considered an evidence-based program by numerous federal-level entities, including the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The Community of Practice on School-based Behavioral Health (CoP SBBH) is a statewide community of cross-sector stakeholders and leaders who share a commitment to the advancement of early childhood, school age and adult behavioral health and wellness. The CoP SBBH supports children, youth, families, schools and community partners through development of comprehensive early childhood and school-based behavioral health support systems.

 This is carried out to overcome non-academic barriers to learning so all children and youth can successfully transition into adulthood. Current focus of the CoP SBBH is on:


  1. Promoting implementation and sustainability of evidenced-based multi-tiered systems of supports (PBIS);
  2. Promoting integration of evidence-based programming into decision-making frameworks (e.g. situating mental health EBPs within the PBIS framework); and
     
  3. Fostering and leveraging articulated and robust school-community partnerships. 


The CoP SBBH believes it will have been successful when children, youth, families, educational entities and community agencies have access to services, supports, training, technical assistance, and collaborative opportunities that ensure academic and emotional/social success for all. The CoP SBBH operates the Affiliated Network of PBIS Facilitators (Trainers) in Pennsylvania and is in the process of organizing a parallel Affiliated Network of MHFA-Y Trainers in Pennsylvania.

 To learn more about MHFA-Y, along with other kindred evidence-based approaches to address non-academic barriers to learning, contact McDowell Institute at ckemper@bloomu.edu .

 By Tim Knoster, co-director, McDowell Institute

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