Mental Health Training

Grant provides youth mental health training
Posted on 03/12/2019

Morganton, NC – Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Sixty Burke County Public Schools faculty and staff members are now trained in youth mental health first aid and the district plans to train 60 more by summer. Burke County Public Schools, in partnership with McDowell County Public Schools and CareNet Counseling of Marion, received a $51,920 grant from the School Safety Grants Program. The grant funded four Burke County Public Schools personnel to become certified instructors, therefore allowing them to train others. The first trainings were held Monday, March 4, at Liberty Middle School and East Burke Middle School.


The eight-hour course taught school faculty and staff how to respond to youth in a mental health crisis and to offer immediate support to youth in emotional distress until they can be connected with a professional. The session discussed the differences in typical adolescent development and mental health challenges youth face. Topics included depression, anxiety, eating disorders, psychosis, substance abuse, attention deficit disorder, suicide, panic attacks and trauma. Course completers came away with knowledge of how to talk to a youth in crisis, develop a five-step action plan and resources on professionals to contact for the next layer of help. The five-step plan involves accessing the situation, listening, being nonjudgmental, offering support, and encouraging the teen to seek professional help as well as self-help and support strategies.


The General Assembly and the State Superintendent of the NC Department of Public Instruction launched the grant opportunity for this academic year. The grant program provides funding for students in crisis and training to increase school safety. 


The Schools Safety Grant Program seeks to improve safety in public schools by providing more resource officers, training and equipment as well as mental health support for students in crisis. CareNet provides mental health services for seven western North Carolina counties, including Burke, and is a spiritually-integrated and community-based provider.


Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam said, “The mental health and emotional wellbeing of our students is an important part of their journey in becoming productive members of our society. We spend more time with our students than sometimes their parents do. We are all about building relationships with students and in so doing we know when something is off or something is troubling them. Having staff members trained to spot warning signs of a mental health crisis and know how to appropriately talk to a student and respond to the student plus get them any further professional help they may need increases the student’s chances of success and ultimately makes our schools safer.”


Mike Swan, Burke County Public Schools director of student services, said, “As a school system, we are committed to strengthening not only our knowledge and awareness about mental health but also equipping our teachers and staff with the necessary resources to support students who may be facing mental health challenges. The grant and training does just that. Participants in the training receive a resource book that they can keep to use as a reference. We are doing more than starting the conversation about mental health. We are training our school personnel so that they may be able to identify the early warning signs of a mental health condition and ensure that students are connected with effective services and supports. I am pleased with the turn out from our first training and look forward to future trainings as we continue to support students and ensure they have what they need to be successful.” 


Vivian Radford, Jamie Reinhardt and Connie Thompson are among the instructors for the training.


Radford, a behavior liaison for Burke County Public Schools, said, “Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to support adults working with adolescents on how to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health problems and substance use disorders. In the course participants engage in group instruction, interactive activities and group discussion to gain skills needed to reach out and provide the initial support for these youth who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and connect them to appropriate care. One in five students ages 13 to 18 lives with a mental health condition. That means in a class of 25, five students are impacted. Many youth do not reach out for help or seek treatment. Therefore it is important for adults to recognize the signs and symptoms in order to help connect youth to appropriate help. We had an awesome class on Monday, March 4. Thirty Burke County Schools staff completed the training I co-led at Liberty Middle School. Many of the participants spoke with me after the training about plans to share information with their colleagues to encourage them to come to one of our future trainings. It was an awesome experience to watch skills and confidence develop and to see the care and concern our staff have for the students we serve.”


Reinhardt, school counselor at Liberty Middle School, said, The energy from our first YMHFA training was exciting. It is so refreshing to see school employees choose to learn more about mental health in order to benefit their students. The school employees that attended are now equipped to help their students that may be dealing with mental health concerns. Our students deal with so many things on a daily basis. For some, it is just the basic stress of school life. For others, they are also dealing with trauma, depression, anxiety and family concerns. It's so important that school employees are familiar with mental health because they spend so much time with students and forge those relationships with each individual student. Mental health knowledge will allow school employees to get students the help they need before it evolves into a crisis situation.”


Thompson, school counselor at East Burke High School and trained instructor, said, “I think the YMHFA training Monday was a huge success. Our participants were amazing. They were engaged, and we had a lot of powerful conversations. We received a lot of positive comments on how the information was helpful in knowing how to respond to youth that could possibly be having mental health issues or in a crisis. I think this training is a must for anyone who is typically around adolescents, because it teaches you how to recognize possible warning signs and how to respond.” 


Karen Goins, assistant principal at Salem and WA Young elementary schools, and 1st Sgt. Trina Hines, JROTC teacher at Freedom High School, participated in the training.


Goins said, “I believe the mental health first aid training was very timely, considering the needs within our schools. The trainers were very thorough and considerate of all attendees and situations they may have gone through. The collaboration between community members and school employees was a great addition to the session, as they were able to hear how relevant mental health awareness is for our children. I believe more school employees would benefit from attending the training to become familiar with warning signs and symptoms. The ability to recognize when a child is in a mental health crisis is crucial to getting them the appropriate medical attention. I appreciate the opportunity of attending such an insightful training.”


Hines said, “According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (2015), each year approximately 21 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience a severe mental condition. As a JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp) high school teacher this means that 1 in 5 students in my classroom may experience a severe mental disorder. The mental health workshop for youth provided me with practical strategies on how to handle situations should one of my students or a youth in my care exhibit a mental health challenge. I highly recommend this course for teachers, counselors and personnel who work with youth on a regular basis.”  

mental health training
Jamie Reihardt, counselor at Liberty Middle Schools, leads a youth mental health training session.

 mental health training

Vivian Radford, behavior liaison for Burke County Public Schools, leads a youth mental health training session.


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