YUHSD increases mental health services

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) – Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) established the Youth Mental Health First Aid Program in 2020, providing mental wellness training to more than 60% of teachers and staff.

The program is a hands-on environment and is aimed at students aged 12 to 18.

All staff, from teachers to cafeteria staff and janitors, are encouraged to watch for warning signs in students and to intervene.

Mental health is a critical part of student performance in school, work, sports, and more.

The National Alliance for Mental Health reports that in the United States, one in six children between the ages of 6 and 17 suffers from a mental health disorder each year.

Making this teacher and counseling training so important to local students.

Dr. Chistine Bracamonte Wiggs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) credits YUHSD for putting together an amazing program with funding from BCBSAZ.

“Anyone who comes into contact with young people is able to recognize the signs and symptoms and know how to act if they see someone in trouble,” said Dr Bracamonte Wiggs.

Dr. Bracamonte Wiggs says that through a new foundation they will donate $5 million over the next three years and says mental health is a big factor in what they do.

She went on to say that suicide prevention training for schools started with the Mitch Warnock Act.

Mitch Warnock was a high school student from Tempe who committed suicide.

After his death, the Arizona State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1468, requiring all public school personnel to be trained in suicide prevention every three years.

Carmen Castaneda, counselor and trainer for the San Luis High School Mental Health Program, shares what she finds great about the program.

“A very important thing that we have right now is our social workers on our campuses,” Castaneda said. “We have one on every campus right now and it’s been a game changer for a lot of us.

This training will help teachers and staff notice changes in students and find the best way to help them.

One training model taught is ‘ALGEE’ which helps school staff remember what to do when helping a student.

YUHSD says its goal is to train all staff by October and offer self-care plans to all staff before starting training to ensure their own minds are also taken care of.

Vista High School board director Monique Slaughter, who is also a trainer for the program, said the program was an eye opener for her.

“The Mental Health First Aid program is really about any staff member practicing the art of paying attention and noticing the signs before things become a crisis, and then building relationships with our students,” Slaughter said.

BCBSAZ granted $10,000 to the program which helped get it started.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing provides the same training that teachers and counselors receive for parents and other guardians.

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