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FRANKLIN COUNTY — Enosburg and Richford High Schools are participating in the expanded teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) pilot program, the first of its kind developed for high school students in the U.S. The schools are one of 40 sites selected to take part in the second cohort of the pilot program, bringing the total of sites teaching the program to more than 75. The training for Enosburg and Richford High Schools are being implemented in partnership with Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS).

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 5-step action plan to help their friends who may be facing a mental health problem or crisis, such as suicide. The course specifically highlights the important step of involving a responsible and trusted adult.

In 2017 both schools participated in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a self-report assessment focused on risk behaviors, mental health, and community needs. In 2017 Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union high school students reported higher than average rates of depression, self-injury and suicidal ideation and attempts. In 2017 32% of FNESU high school students reported symptoms of depression, 21% engaged in self injury in the last year, 14% made a suicide plan and 8% made a suicide attempt.

“Knowing how to spot the signs that someone in our lives is experiencing a mental health challenge and understanding how we can support that person is a basic life skill we all need to have – especially teenagers. Teens trust their friends, so they need to be trained to recognize signs of mental health or substance use problems in their peers. The number one thing a teen can do to support a friend dealing with anxiety or depression is to help them seek support from a trusted adult.”, says Lynn Cota, Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union (FNESU) Superintendent.

This year over 250 FNESU high school students will be trained in Teen Mental Health First Aid. The following year NCSS has plans to offer the Teen Mental Health First Aid training to other schools in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties as an intervention to increase positive mental health among high school students and to increase early intervention and detection of suicide warning signs.

“As a system of care, we need to continue to move upstream and this includes investing in prevention. To truly recognize and value mental health as a part of a person’s holistic health, teens need to feel comfortable talking about mental health and knowing what to do if they are concerned about another peer. Teen Mental Health First Aid provides an excellent opportunity for our community to involve adolescents and to improve health outcomes and support wellness”, says Danielle Lindley, Division Director of Children, Youth and Families at Northwestern Counseling & Support Services.

For questions about the tMHFA training or to get your school involved contact, Lance Metayer at lance.metayer@ncssinc.org

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