Youth Mental Health First Aiders Make an Impact in Dooly County

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By Amanda O’Neal-Neisent
Dooly County Family Connection Coordinator

Mental health has been on the forefront of Dooly County Family Connection’s work for years, but the need for more youth mental health-related programing and resources has taken a prime spot in the work we’ve been doing in communities and schools since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fort Valley State University (FVSU) invited Dooly County to become a founding member of a cohort created through FVSU’s VALUE grant, along with Macon, Bibb, and Peach counties. Two trainers from each county attended a three-day training session at FVSU to become trainers of Youth Mental Health First Aid with the capacity to train and certify “Youth Mental Health First Aiders.”

Youth Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour public education program that introduces participants to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, builds understanding of the importance of early intervention, and teaches individuals how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge.

Role-playing and simulations demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect young people to professional, peer, social, and self-help care.

The state is monitoring this unique opportunity, and great progress has been made to get all teachers, school staff, law enforcement, and community partners trained as Youth Mental Health First Aiders. Our cohort has produced 210 new certified Youth Mental Health First Aiders over the past year, and we’ll continue to train more individuals and give them the tools they need to recognize and assist youth dealing with mental health issues and drug use issues.

We’ve also added another piece of training for students—a positive action plan surrounding mental health in youth. The cohort has already trained 565 students through positive action training.

This is a $2 million project over the life of the VALUE grant, but we’ll continue to do this work in our communities even after the grant is over in an effort to educate people about youth mental health, train more Mental Health First Aiders, and work toward reducing youth violence.


Krystin Dean
GaFCP Communications Specialist

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