Hamburg Central School District, Hamburg, New York
Challenge: An estimated 1 in 5 youth suffer from a mental health disorder, with half of all chronic mental illness beginning by age 14. Untreated mental health problems can lead to poor school performance, strained family relationships, trouble with the law, substance abuse and other risk behaviors.
Initiative: The district is training all employees in mental health first aid so they can recognize risk factors and warning signs, and respond appropriately. Staff role-play to practice applying five-step action plans. The district plans to extend the training to parents and community organizations in the 2018-19 school year.
Impact: Evaluations completed by those who took the course show that 96 percent are confident that they would recognize the signs of a young person with a mental health challenge, with 94 percent confident about reaching out to that person.
Advice: Acknowledge the importance of addressing mental health wellness and commit to taking action. Engage stakeholders in developing a plan. Don’t be overwhelmed by the scope of what needs to be done. Implementation is difficult at first but there are immediate benefits and seeing results will motivate you to stay the course.