National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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As part of his recommendations to protect our communities from gun violence and to improve gun control, President Obama today rightly called for Mental Health First Aid training to help teachers and staff recognize the signs of mental health disorders in young people and find them appropriate care.

“The youth version of Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based training program to help citizens identify mental health problems in young people, connect youth with care, and safely deescalate crisis situations if needed. The program, focusing on youth ages 12 to 25, provides an ideal forum to engage communities in discussing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, the prevalence of mental health disorders, the effectiveness of treatment and how to engage troubled young people in services.

“This groundbreaking training is critical for anyone who spends time with young people. The first onset of severe mental illness typically occurs in the late teens or early twenties. The symptoms of severe mental illness often emerge slowly over this period and can be difficult to detect without basic information on what to look for. Even when friends and family of someone who appears to be developing mental illness can tell that something is amiss, they may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment — which means that all too often, those in need of mental health services do not get them until it is too late. Research shows that the sooner people get help for mental health disorders, the more likely they are to have positive outcomes.

“The adult Mental Health First Aid program has already been delivered to nearly 100,000 Americans through a network of more than 2,500 instructors.

“We, of course, understand that no amount of training can guarantee horrific acts won’t occur, but being comfortable with openly talking about mental illness and engaging young adults and their families can increase the likelihood we may be able to help and intervene early.

“We are grateful to Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) and Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) who will shortly reintroduce Mental Health First Aid legislation in Congress to implement the President’s recommendations.

“We also encourage President Obama and Congress to consider other National Council policy proposals which will dramatically increase our nation’s ability to provide timely, high-quality mental health and addictions services to people in need. The proposals may be found on our web site at