DMH Begins Mental Health Awareness Training Grant Program

A multi-disciplinary group gathered recently at the Department of Mental Health (DMH) Central Office to become certified as instructors in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

As instructors, they will be training hopefully hundreds of Mississippi teachers, school employees, and school resource officers in the Youth Mental Health First Aid curriculum throughout the next three years. Youth Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course designed to teach parents, educators, families, and other professionals who regularly interact with young people how to help a young person who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.

They will be offering training to school district employees, school resource officers, parents and caregivers due to a federal grant from the Substance Abuse Services and Mental Health Administration. The Mental Health Awareness Training grant is a three-year grant SAMHSA awarded DMH that allows the agency to provide this training at no cost to these groups.

“Youth Mental Health First Aid is a training that can help any caring citizen in recognizing the ways youth and adolescents may be demonstrating mental health or substance use issues,” said Molly Portera, Director of Outreach and Training at DMH.

“Our goals with this grant are to ensure school resource officers and educators are taught how to recognize the signs and symptoms and mental health issues, and to make sure students and schools are connected with their local resources. We are excited about this opportunity.”

Instructors certified in February included school resource officers from Clinton, Petal, and Lamar County School Districts, staff from the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Orderly Schools, staff from Canopy Children’s Solutions, as well as from the DMH Central Office.

DMH will be working with these instructors, as well as current instructors at Community Mental Health Centers across Mississippi, to offer these trainings and make sure participants are aware of the mental health resources in their areas.

Training classes must have at least five participants, with no more than 30 in any single class. Youth Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that can be provided in one day, or broken into two four-hour sessions on consecutive days.

The training has also been approved for eight hours of continuing education credit for school resource officers by the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and for .08 hours of continuing education units for educators by Jackson State University’s School of Lifelong Learning. While the cost of the training is covered through the grant, continuing education credits will be the responsibility of the participants.

For more information or to request a training, contact the Department of Mental Health at 601-359-1288.

Pictured above are (l to r) Brooks Little, Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Orderly Schools; Al Kimbrell, Clinton school resource officer; Darin Dorsey, Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Orderly Schools; Tamica Hill, Lamary County school resource officer; Tammye Reese, Sarah Howe, Tonja Smith, Canopy Children’s Solutions; Courtney Littleton, DMH Mental Health Awareness Training Coordinator; Muna Eltorn, Beth McNamee, Canopy Children’s Solutions; and Jermine Alberty, MHFA training instructor. Kneeling are Gavin Guy, Petal school resource officer, and Suzanne Clark; MHFA training instructor.