ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — McHenry County will train educators on how to identify and assist youths experiencing mental health issues.
The county mental health board is collaborating with 17 school districts in August to bring Youth Mental Health First Aid training to instructors and teach them crisis intervention, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported .
“It gives you an opportunity for early intervention,” said Kristin Schmidt, assistant director of special education for Crystal Lake Elementary District 47, one of school districts receiving teacher training. “This will provide them a lens of empathy. They can apply it to how they choose to interact with students in their classroom or change expectations for classroom behaviors; modify workload for students with high anxiety.”
The Illinois Association for Behavioral Health has used the nationally known training model to educate instructors, school personnel, parents, and neighbors on how to help teenagers dealing with mental health problems. But the five-day training in August will be primarily for middle and high school administrators, special education staff, social workers and psychologists. It will be provided by expert national trainers and enabled by the Crystal Lake chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness .
The class will comprise of a five-step action plan for how to assist adolescents in crisis and non-crisis circumstances. Those steps include: evaluating for danger of suicide or harm; listening nonjudgmentally; providing reassurances and information; encouraging proper professional help; and promoting self-help and other support strategies.
One in five children, ages 13 to 18 years, has experienced a serious mental disorder in their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Scott Block, executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board, said McHenry County’s evaluation of child and adolescent mental health and psychiatric needs in 2017 underscored a mounting issue and need for improved access to services.
“With the pressures of today’s society, both in the educational (and) social environment in which children are using many different social media platforms. There have been anecdotal increases in anxiety, depression, body image issues, and bullying-related concerns, all of which have exacerbated mental health-related issues within our youth,” Block said. “Our response was to increase and bolster some of our community-based services.”
In January, the mental health board approved up to $40,000 in subsidies to allocate to the Youth Mental Health First Aid training after a new state mandate required school boards to adopt and implement rules addressing mental health concerns.