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Smoky Mountain Offers Youth Mental Health First Aid Training at Watauga County Library July 25

July 25, 2014. Smoky offers Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to adults who interact with children, such as teachers, coaches, pastors and scout leaders. They learn to spot signs of mental health issues, because identifying symptoms early is a key to ensuring that resources and support can be provided in time to prevent a potential crisis.

On July 25, Smoky Mountain LME/MCO is holding a Youth Mental Health First Aid training at the Watauga County Library (140 Queen Street, Boone). Anyone interested in attending the program may register by emailing [email protected]

As part of its mission to promote prevention and early intervention efforts in western North Carolina, Smoky Mountain LME/MCO is training adults who work with young people how to recognize signs of mental health issues, so that children can get services and supports faster.

Smoky’s youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program trains adults such as teachers, coaches, pastors and scout leaders to recognize symptoms in the youth they work with in time to provide resources and support that can potentially avert a mental health crisis. The program is open to any adult who has regular contact with children, whether as a teache, coach or mentor.

“As of May 15, the youth MHFA program has helped 26 adults in three communities in western North Carolina,” said Ann DuPre Rogers, Smoky’s community outreach director. “Because this training has been so well received, Smoky has scheduled additional trainings across the 23 counties we serve and has made this a training that will be an ongoing part of our community-based training offerings.”

Suzanne Mizsur-Porter, coordinator of the United Way of Rutherford County’s Community Engagement Team, a substance abuse prevention coalition, participated in the training to help develop her skills as leader of the United Way’s Youth Council.

“I felt that taking the youth MHFA class would enable me to be a stronger support for our kids and hopefully develop a better sense of differentiating between so-called ‘typical teen development’ behaviors and behaviors that could indicate a potential mental health concern,” Mizsur-Porter said. “I also believe the youth MHFA training has helped me reinforce what we tell our Youth Council members – it’s great to be there for someone else, to listen and offer support. But we all have to be mindful of knowing when it’s time to get help from an adult or help from a professional, and that there’s no shame in getting that help.

“I would highly recommend this training to parents, teachers, caregivers, and anyone who works with youth,” Mizsur-Porter added. “As the parent of a teenage daughter, I’ve already found that the class has helped me improve my communication skills with the kids who are in my personal and professional life. It was definitely time well-spent.”

Smoky’s recent Community Education Survey found 38 percent of respondents are interested in learning about signs of mental illness, reinforcing the region’s desire for both youth and adult MHFA programming. To meet this need expressed by the community, Smoky is planning additional MHFA trainings, including a separate MHFA program training adults to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health issues within their peer group.

Smoky Mountain LME/MCO manages mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual/developmental disability services in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey counties in North Carolina. Access to services is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-849-6127.