Youth mental health first aid among plans for safer schools

by Michelle Saxton
Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Staff photo by Michelle Saxton 

Gov. Pat McCrory joins students, community and state leaders, and law enforcement officials in the library of John T. Hoggard High School in Wilmington on Friday, Sept. 6, to talk about school safety issues in North Carolina.



Providing youth mental health first aid training, co-locating mental health providers and developing a system for anonymous reporting of bullying and weapons in schools are among goals of the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools.

Youth mental health first aid is a 12-hour interactive course that can give teachers, counselors and older students an overview of mental illness and substance abuse disorders and the warning signs, Kym Martin, the center’s executive director, said Monday, Sept. 9.

“We would just want to make sure that everyone in the state is aware of it and can access it if they want to and recommend it to them as a way to identify some of the risk factors in students,” Martin said. 

Encouraging more adults to be attentive and willing to intervene early in addressing problems is the first priority in keeping students safe, North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos has said.

Wos and Martin joined Gov. Pat McCrory and State Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry for a visit to John T. Hoggard High School in Wilmington on Sept. 6 to unveil the center’s recent safer schools report and announce the establishment of a task force to address school safety concerns.

Wos mentioned youth mental health first aid in her speech.

“Just like we all know we have CPR certification, presently there is evidence-based programs that train adults to be attentive to mental health issues of the students and to intervene before the problems escalate,” Wos told students, community and state leaders and law enforcement officials gathered in the school’s library. 

There can be fees for the training, and the center may seek grants to help with access, Martin said later.

Mental health and addiction were among issues of greatest interest regarding safer schools, McCrory said during the Hoggard High visit, adding he soon hoped to announce initiatives to fight addiction and drug and alcohol abuse among students.

“We’re very concerned about your future,” McCrory told the students. “If there is abuse and drugs and alcohol at such a young age, that’s going to impact your future families and your ability to get a job and have a good education.”

Mental health, physical security, school climate and emergency preparedness were main focuses of the center’s report.

The center, which McCrory established earlier this year within the state Department of Public Safety, held a series of forums throughout the state this year to learn from students, parents and education officials about school safety needs, Perry said.

“We’ve learned that school safety starts and ends within the community and the families of students attending these schools,” Perry said.

The center planned to work with the university system to develop statewide surveys for elementary, middle and high school students and parents, Martin said, adding she hoped to have surveys ready as soon as early 2014 and completed by the school year’s end.

McCrory established the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools to help advise the center. About 20 members will serve on the task force, including school board members, law enforcement officers, school administrators, a teacher, a student, a parent, a school psychologist and a juvenile justice professional.

While at Hoggard High, Wos and McCrory encouraged students to reach out to each other, encouraging them to sit with a lonely classmate at lunch.

“The impact that you can have on another human being is just absolutely monumental,” Wos said. “Please be attentive to others. Your intervention can actually save another human being’s life.”

The governor also visited Southport on Sept. 6 to announce Lee Controls’ plan to locate its manufacturing and headquarters operations in Brunswick County and create 77 new jobs over three years. Lee Controls produces linear precision balls, Teflon® bearings, pillow blocks, carriage locks, carriage plates and ball screws, McCrory’s office said.

This story was updated after it was posted online on Sept. 7.

email michelle@luminanews.com


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