Canyon High School participating in mental health first aid pilot

Published: Oct. 21, 2019 at 6:16 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - The Panhandle Behavioral Health Alliance says 83-percent of people in Amarillo say they or a family member of their household sought mental health care within the last two years.

Schools are making it a point to teach their staff and students how to recognize if someone is dealing with a mental illness.

Canyon High school implemented a pilot program within the last month that helps staff and students have the tools they need to talk about mental health issues.

“The big emphasis is in schools because that’s where our kids are at. And for our teachers and coaches to begin to have the mental health first aid classes so they can identify, understand and respond differently,” said the Chairman of Panhandle Behavioral Health Alliance. Dave Clark.

Canyon High School says they are one of 35 schools in the country to be chosen to participate in this pilot program. Because there is still research to be done, only sophomores are participating in the first aid training to have the entire school trained in three years.

“By the end of April, we would have trained all the sophomores in teen mental health first aid. The other grades will have gone through a drug prevention program, ACT prep, some college and career readiness, and some other social and emotional learning. So every student at Canyon high at this time is gaining knowledge and having a chance to grow themselves,” said Carissa Windgate, student and family advocate at Canyon, ISD.

The teen mental health first aid encourages students to pick their top five adults who they would feel comfortable talking to about mental health issues.

“We walk them through an action plan, we talk about crisis, suicide, just for different resources in the area if they have a friend that may be struggling. So the action plan looks, ask, listen and help your friend. So we walk through that with different scenarios there are different videos, different things like that, so it’s a multi-approach curriculum,” said Dakota Milloway, student and family advocate at Canyon, ISD.

Experts are saying the need for mental health first aid is higher than ever.

“Back in the day, you know it was trying to respond to cardiac arrest. The statistic was if you can be around somebody in three to four minutes and give immediate life saving, breathing and circulation to the patient, you have a high chance of that patient recovering. Well, now it’s switched over to mental health first aid. So that person that’s finally said, ‘I don’t feel right’, ‘I’ve been bullied’, ‘I’ve been hurt’, and begin to hear something’s going on that I can respond and say, ‘lets go talk to a counselor’, ‘lets go talk to a coach’. It’s that first response of grabbing them in and taking them for help," said Clark.

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