Youth are experiencing anxiety, trauma and a loss of connection with their peers and caring adults, particularly amid the pandemic and the movement for racial justice. To build statewide capacity for supporting adolescents facing emotional stress or substance use problems, the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, Inc.(MHANJ) is leading this yearlong effort to provide a Mental Health First Aid component as part of a larger effort focused on developing a healing-centered education model in the state. MHANJ is selecting and training teams of school personnel to become certified Youth Mental Health First Aid instructors with the knowledge and skills to train their colleagues to identify risk factors and warning signs of mental health or substance use problems in adolescents, understand the importance of early intervention, and develop the intervention skills to assist an adolescent experiencing a crisis. Through this project, a network of 50 Youth Mental Health First Aid instructors consisting of educators, school administrators and staff representing multiple grade levels is being established across 26 healing-centered schools in New Jersey. By implementing a train-the-trainer approach, the certified instructors will be a resource for training their current and future colleagues in Youth Mental Health First Aid. This effort will expand the statewide network of adults who are certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid.
Over the long-term, the potential impact of this network of certified trainers could include increased mental health literacy and improved access to care, which could reduce the stigma of mental illness, and promote health and equity by addressing the behavioral health needs and substance use issues of adolescents in New Jersey. In addition, this work can advance pandemic response, recovery, and trauma-informed efforts to build more resilient communities.
Additional partners in the development of the healing-centered education system include the Foundation for Educational Administration, the New Jersey Education Association, the NJ Department of Education, and the Office of Resilience in the NJ Department of Children and Families. Additional funding to these partners is being provided by the Burke Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Princeton Area Community Foundation, and the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund.
Director, MHANJ Mental Health First Aid Initiative
(973) 571-4100 x136
Follow the latest news coverage regarding this work:
North Plainfield School Selected for Healing-Centered Engagement Initiative
TAPinto Warren. (2021, March 28)