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California teachers train to find mental health warning signs

Since the beginning of the pandemic, experts have warned of the mental health crisis facing American children.

Benito Luna-Herrera, a 7th grade social studies teacher in Southern California, talks about a junior high school student whose post-pandemic depression led to the idea of ​​suicide. Other educators say they have never seen so much school violence, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. And the idea of ​​suicide.

The silver lining in the case of Luna-Herrera helped him to know what special training he should look for and how to respond to the signs of a mental emergency. Mental Health First Aid: Teach adults how to find warning signs of children’s mental health risks and substance abuse and how to prevent tragedy.

The California Department of Education is funding programs in all school districts that require it, and the pandemic is accelerating the move to make such courses a state requirement. The training program is run by the National Mental Health Council and is available in all states.

“I don’t want to read about another teenager who has a warning sign and we have a different perspective,” said Anthony Portantino, author of a bill that requires all middle and high schools in California to train at least 75%. Senator Ntino said. “Teachers and school staff are at the forefront of the crisis and need to be trained to find students in distress.”

Experts say childhood depression and anxiety have increased over the years, but the relentless stress and sadness of pandemics has been separated from counselors and other school resources, especially during distance learning. Amplified the problem for those who have already experienced mental health problems.

In low-income areas, where there were many adverse childhood experiences prior to the pandemic, the crisis is even worse, exacerbated by a shortage of school staff and mental health professionals.

Many states have mandated training of teachers on suicide prevention over the last decade, and the pandemic has encouraged them to expand their reach to include support for mental health awareness and behavioral health needs.

President Joe Biden has proposed $ 1 billion in new federal funding to help schools hire more counselors and psychologists and strengthen their suicide prevention programs. .. Health crisis. “

Many children bounced off after a long period of isolation in distance education, but for other children it took longer and mental health problems often lag behind stressors.

Sharon Huber, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the university, said: Co-Director of Maryland School of Medicine and National School Mental Health Center.

Adolescent mental health first aid courses help distinguish typical adolescent behavior from warning signs of blatant or subtle mental distress. After realizing that something may be wrong, the next step is to ask the students without pressure or judgment. And let them know that you care and want to help.

Luna Herrera, a social studies teacher at California Middle School, took this course in the spring of 2021 and used it two weeks later.

One of his 12-year-old students felt that her world was collapsing. Her distance education overturned her friendship. Things with her boyfriend became violent. Her family life was stressful. She talked to Luna-Herrera and shared a detailed plan for committing suicide.

In this course you will learn how to deal with such a crisis. Issue an alarm and get the help of an expert. Do not leave one person thinking of suicide. Luna Herrera continued to talk to the girl, involving school managers and police.

“He completely saved the child’s life,” said Mojave Unified Director Catherine A, who oversees the district of about 3,000 students, who make up the majority of Latin and black children in economically disadvantaged families. Gillet said.

Another advocate of teacher training is Harry Bruel, who hopes to prevent the tragedy that his family has endured. His daughter Taya committed suicide at the age of 14.

Shortly after his death, Bruel found a diary he had kept as part of a Colorado High School assignment. In it, Taya painted a disturbing portrait of her self-harm, writing about how much she hated her body and heard her voice. She wanted to be silent.

Her teacher read the assignment and wrote, “Taya, a very thorough journal. I loved reading the entries. A +.” She never told the teacher about it to school counselors and managers.

“The teacher didn’t want to hurt our daughter. I think she didn’t know what to do when she read those harsh warning signs in Taya’s diary,” her father said. rice field.

He believes that laws that require teacher training on behavioral health will save lives.

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