Mental health challenges are common among adolescents and young adults. According to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, up to 1 in 5 children living in the United States experience a mental disorder every year. Mental disorders are more common than heart disease and cancers combined. However, challenges continue to exist in regard to an overall community understanding of mental illness and access to appropriate care. The stigma surrounding mental illness often prevents people from seeking treatment, and those that do want help are not sure how to even begin that process.
The Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) houses the Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health(COE), which provides research, fidelity monitoring, evaluation, and technical assistance for child and youth-serving systems. COE along with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and Department of Juvenile Justice(DJJ); two state level child serving organizations; seek to advance the understanding of how to recognize and respond to signs of mental health crisis which may contribute to other negative outcomes. Organization personnel, caregivers and youth are in need of more training on mental health literacy which has been shown to be a key factor in preventing student violence against others and themselves.
This Georgia Mental Health Awareness Training Project will support implementation of a training model designed to address grade level understanding of the challenges that youth impacted by child welfare and juvenile justice face, and how they can be supported by adults and each other. The project will utilize two evidence-based training curriculums - Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) and Teen Mental Health (tMHFA) - both focused on mental health literacy using Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) models to train 7750 staff, caregivers and youth. The YMHFA model is designed to teach adults who regularly interact with young people (parents, family, school staff) and peers how to help adolescents (ages 12-18) who are experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or crisis. The tMHFA model is an in-person training that teaches high school students about common mental health challenges and what they can do to support their own mental health and help a friend who is struggling. It equips young people with the knowledge and skills they need to foster their own wellness and to support each other.
This project aims to determine the impact of formalized mental health literacy training for youth and adults involved in child welfare and juvenile justice’s systems. COE intends to share findings with the Georgia system of care who are invested in the mental wellness of children, adolescents and young adults throughout the state as well as the funder, and will seek publication of any evaluation results in scholarly journals.