This article was contributed by the San Benito County Behavioral Health Department.
In California, proposed Senate Bill 428 would have required school employees to be trained in youth mental and behavioral health. However, after passing through the state assembly and senate, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill on Oct. 15. As justification for the veto, Newsom expressed that mental health partnerships among county behavioral health departments, school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education are best positioned to address these concerns.
With or without an approved senate bill, San Benito County Behavioral Health has taken proactive measures to follow this general proposal by certifying 14 case managers as coaches to deliver Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings to the school system and the community. A range of studies have shown that mental health first aid training improves knowledge, reduces stigmatizing attitudes, and increases first aid actions toward people with mental health problems and challenges.1 By certifying the case management staff, trainees will be able to develop skills to identify symptoms of possible mental health disorders in youth and, in turn, allow for a community approach towards prevention and early intervention efforts.
In early October, case managers from San Benito County Behavioral Health went through an intensive three-day training to become certified under the provisions of the Mental Health First Aid program developed by Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm in 2001. Kitchener and Jorm have since granted permission to the National Council for Behavioral Health to provide and reproduce this training for the purposes of improving mental health knowledge and skills in communities throughout the United States.2
San Benito County Behavioral Health’s goal is to support schools by training professionals that work with youth. This training opportunity will give community members, friends, and coaches an opportunity to better understand what mental health is, what some of the common diagnosis are, and how to respond to youth who might be experiencing a crisis. With youth suicide becoming an increasing concern, this training will also assist in sharing tools and methods for suicide prevention and will help adults identify signs so that linkages to resources may be made in a timely manner. Additionally, it will reduce the misconception many people have about mental health3 which has been at the forefront of conversations for the past few years.
To learn more about this initiative, contact San Benito County Behavioral Health’s Mental Health Case Management Services Manager Maria Sanchez at (831) 636-4020.
1 Mental Health First Aid USA: for Adults Assisting Young People. National Council for Behavioral Health, 2016.
2 Mental Health First Aid USA: for Adults Assisting Young People. National Council for Behavioral Health, 2016.
3 Mental Health First Aid USA: for Adults Assisting Young People. National Council for Behavioral Health, 2016.