Homewood, Ala. (WBRC) - Homewood city schools are some of the best in Alabama, and this year administrators decided to go beyond academics. They received state and federal grant money and are investing into Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. Like the name implies, administrators want staff to be prepared to immediately respond to a child in a mental health crisis and stop the emotional bleeding.
Patrick Chappell is one of the trainers.
“If we want to teach children and have them learn and grow, we have to teach the whole child and not just the academic side of them. We want to provide all of faculty and staff with this baseline training to help make sure adults are there for our students,” he says.
When he says all, he means everyone from bus drivers and cafeteria workers, to the people who have the most direct contact with students - teachers.
During training, instructional aides listened to a video presentation where a man named Kevin talked about the emotional trauma he experienced as a child, after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and the interactions he had with his parents, teachers, doctors and therapists. Kevin says in the video, “None of them really told me that recovery was possible in arm’s reach.”
But there was one uncle in his life who listened to him, non-judgmentally, and got Kevin constructive information about his disorder. He credits that adult with helping to save his sanity and his life.
Staff members also learned during the training about assessing students for risk of suicide and harm, how to give reassurance and information, when to encourage professional and appropriate help and encourage self-help and other support strategies.
It all hits home for Chappell because he’s experienced students in crisis or taking their own life.
“Students we’ve had in the past and sometimes it’s students who have moved on in their adult life that that has happened to and so we don’t want that to happen anymore.”
The reason it’s important to train everyone on staff?
“Because the research is clear," Chappell says. "If a child can connect with one adult, one meaningful adult, their chances for a good life increase dramatically.”