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Youth Mental Health First Aid Can Help Young People Who Are Struggling

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Across the country, people are debating how to prevent mass shootings like the one that happened Feb. 14 at a Florida high school. Many people are pushing for tighter gun laws. There’s also an acknowledgement that young people who are struggling emotionally need more help, and one way people can help is to take a youth mental health first aid class.

The idea is similar to learning CPR. In the eight-hour class, you learn techniques to help someone who may be in crisis until you can connect them with professional help. The courses are targeted at people who work with youth, but they’re also aimed at parents and other people in the community.

“People see warning signs, but then they feel like they just don’t know what to do. They just don’t know what to say or how they should intervene,” said Diana Beal, training coordinator at the nonprofit mental health service provider Compass Health in Everett, which offers the classes. “So that is the purpose of this class so that people don’t feel that loss of I see something but I don’t know how I should approach it or what I should do.”

Beal said one thing the classes emphasize is the power of listening.

“It’s easy to rush to judgment when you’re listening, so listening nonjudgmentally is really important – being able to have an open mind when you’re listening, to not cut the person off or give advice, and give them an opportunity to explain what is going on with them,” she said.

The classes include a lot of role-playing. Participants practice asking someone directly whether they’re considering suicide.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24 in Washington state.

Compass Health will hold a youth mental health first aid class in Everett in April. In Tacoma, different organizations are hosting a youth mental health first aid class April 2 in the Pierce County Library System.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.