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School district teaching first aid courses for youth mental health emergencies

LOVELAND, Colo. -- Thompson School District R2-J is offering a unique course for parents, teachers and coaches to help kids through mental health emergencies.

Through a grant from Project AWARE, the district is offering training in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

Just like traditional first aid training, the idea is to get help to the person who is suffering right away before he or she can get to a doctor or hospital.

Through Project AWARE, that same principle is applied to mental health.

“A lot of times we believe that it takes a mental health professional that can save a life,” Project AWARE coordinator Raquel Ramirez said.

“But in those moments or crisis situations the more adults that can be trained … is life saving.”

Thompson School District is one of three statewide that offer the training.

The eight-hour course covers topics such as depression and anxiety along with the warning signs of mental health struggles.

According to Colorado state data, 8 percent of kids statewide have attempted suicide in the past year.

The same data also show three in 10 high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless every day for the past two weeks.

These statistics are in line with national averages, but each year since 2011, the rates have increased.

“I will say that our teens are facing a lot more issues around social media and family lifestyle,” Ramirez said.

One of the key takeaways from the mental health first aid course is how to handle situations when a child seems withdrawn or depressed.

The course suggests adults administer first aid using the acronym “ALGEE”.

  • A-assess risks of suicide and harm
  • L-listen, non-judgmentally
  • G-give reassurance and information
  • E-encourage appropriate professional help
  • E-encourage other help

“We’re able to get those kids the help that they need at a much faster rate,” Ramirez said.