Learning how to understand mental health first aid

Karassa Stinchcomb
Posted 5/16/18

FLEMING ISLAND – Principals from the Clay County School District learned how to understand, identify and respond to signs of mental illness as part of what’s called Mental Health First Aid …

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Learning how to understand mental health first aid

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Principals from the Clay County School District learned how to understand, identify and respond to signs of mental illness as part of what’s called Mental Health First Aid Training.

Principals from schools in Clay County gathered at Fleming Island High Teacher Training Center Tuesday for the eight-hour course. The training included presentations through small group discussions, videos, experiences and simulations.

“The training can impact your personal life, family and then whatever environment you’re in,” said Roxy Hall, one of the three trainers leading the event. “If you’re a principal like these folks in here, or a police officer or firefighter, you can take the tools that you learn in this training and literally make an impact instantly.”

First Aid Training is often associated with CPR, but Clay County School District is working to get people to include mental health when they think about first aid.

“We’ve never had training sessions that really truly focused on better understanding our students and our learners and gaining access to them,” Superintendent Addison Davis said. “This is a training we brought over with many partnerships to have a common understanding of how students deal with anxiety, depression, how they are exposed to potentially criminal or violent acts, or how are they exposed to mental health issues, so that we can have a better way of servicing students.”

The training comes two months after 17 people were killed in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Since the shooting, Florida school districts are being asked to raise awareness about mental health, both among students and staff.

“Mental illness is something that has been stigmatized and kept below the radar in the community, and so it’s unfortunate that it’s taken things like Parkland and other national events to surface these concerns,” said Adele Reed, principal of Clay Hill Elementary.

An educator’s well-being and mental health is often overlooked because the mental health of the student is what is often examined, but Davis wants to do a better job at focusing on the educator’s mental health.

“We talk about creating the best working conditions for adults every single day, and today’s training provides another avenue for us to have a better understanding of mental health literacy as it relates to how adults interact and how to use that information to better our students in Clay County,” Davis said.

Rodney Ivey, principal at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary, said the Mental Health First Aid Training is important and will help him better understand how to help educators who may be struggling with a mental illness.

“The things teachers and schools are having to deal with and interact with on a daily basis is so much more than the math, science and language arts curriculum issues,” Ivey said. “As a part of handling students’ challenges, a lot of time, teachers will take those on themselves, and so to be able to provide some support for teachers as they are going through all of that is important.”

The Clay County School District is working to expand the training to all educators and to Clay County Sheriff’s deputies who work in Clay County schools.

The Mental Health First Aid Training program has a goal of training 10,000 people in the Jacksonville area on mental health first aid over the next three years, according to Hall.

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