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McHenry-area educators begin youth mental health first aid training

McHenry-area educators are joining with an international movement to promote quick action to mental health issues for young people by embarking on Youth Mental Health First Aid training.

The 8-hour training sessions are meant to give educators the tools to quickly recognize mental health distress and find appropriate help. It follows the Youth Mental Health First Aid model developed in Australia that has spread to other countries, including the U.S.

The training, coordinated by McHenry High School District 156, in cooperation with McHenry Elementary District 15 and Harrison School District 36 in Wonder Lake, has already attracted 48 teachers and staff members for the November and January sessions.

Three staff members from District 156 and one from District 15 attended a 40-hour training in August to become nationally certified trainers in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

Maura Reid, District 156 wellness and prevention coordinator, said the plan is to offer more training in the spring and summer. Reid was one of the four McHenry-area educators to become a certified trainer.

The November and January sessions filled up pretty quickly, Reid said, adding, “we were kind of surprised that there was such a high interest.”

It is all part of a new effort to train educators throughout McHenry County how to help young people. The McHenry County Mental Health Board approved up to $40,000 in subsidies to facilitate Youth Mental Health First Aid Training in response to a new state law requiring school districts to address youth mental health issues.

Scott Block, executive director of the McHenry County Mental Health Board, said he’s glad to see McHenry educators get trained. Nearly a dozen other school districts took advantage of the training program to offer training to their own districts.

“That way we have access to the training on an ongoing basis in McHenry County,” Block said. “This is just another tool to help educators and educational systems.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Illinois also offers training to members of the public interested in learning how to handle mental health issues.

Block said he’s meeting with school district in December to get an update on how the first aid training is going in other districts.