teen Mental Health First Aid

Ames High will participate in the teen Mental Health First Aid pilot program run by the National Council for Behavioral Health with support from Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. 

Ames High is participating in the expanded teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) pilot program, the first of its kind developed for high school students in the U.S. The school is one of 40 sites selected to take part in the second cohort of the pilot program. This fall, two individuals will attend training that will then be implemented starting next spring. 

“We are thrilled to introduce teen Mental Health First Aid to our community and students,” said Ames High Principal Brian Carico. “The program will teach high school students to recognize and respond when their friends are experiencing the early stages of a mental health or addiction problem.” 

tMHFA is an in-person training designed for high school students to learn about mental illnesses and addictions and how to identify and respond to a developing mental health or substance use problem among their peers. Similar to CPR, students learn a 5-step action plan to help their friends who may be facing a mental health problem or crisis, such as suicide. 

The course specifically highlights the important step of involving a responsible and trusted adult. This training is the next step in continuing our work in the area of mental health. At the end of last school year, all teachers across the District participated in an 8-hour Mental Health First Aid training. 

“We’re thrilled Ames High is one of the first U.S. high schools to participate in teen Mental Health First Aid,” said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “Teens trust their friends, so they need to be trained to recognize signs of mental health or substance use problems in their peers. The number one thing a teen can do to support a friend dealing with anxiety or depression is to help them seek support from a trusted adult.”

Through this pilot, Ames High is taking an important step toward ensuring students are able to recognize when a friend or peer might be struggling and to feel confident that they know what to do to help. Knowing how to spot the signs that someone in our lives is experiencing a mental health challenge and understanding how we can support that person is a basic life skill we all need to have – especially teenagers.

tMHFA is an evidence-based training program from Australia. The National Council adapted the training with support from Born This Way Foundation and Well Being Trust. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health are assessing the pilot program to evaluate its effectiveness. The training will be available to the public following analysis of the pilot study. 

Next semester, about half of all 10th graders will receive the teen Mental Health First Aid training within their health class. The year after that and moving forward, all 10th graders will receive the training.