LAKE TWP.  Principals, teachers, staff members and others who interact with students of the Lake Local School District have completed a training program from the Mental Health First Aid national program. Ninety-eight people who work for the district received the training this past year.

School Counselors Jessica McLouth and Shirley Oberdier went through the training with the Stark County Mental Health & Addition Recovery (StarkMHAR). They then came back to the district to teach others how to identify and help students who are developing or experiencing a mental health problem or a mental health crisis.

"We received a grant from the StarkMHAR for Shirley and myself to attend training so that we could train others, the grant also paid for the manuals that are part of the training for the 98 people we trained at the district," McLouth said.

She said the grant was a two-year grant that ends in October 2018. The training program through Mental Health First Aid is, according to www.menatlhealthfirstaid.org, is an eight-hour course that teaches people "how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. "

The training provides the skills needed to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. The training has reached more than 1 million people across the United States.

Mental Health First Aiders can be teachers, first responders, veterans, neighbors, parents and friends. They’re people in recovery and those supporting a family member. McLouth said anyone can take the training. McLouth and Oberdier’s goal was to reach out to all of the employees of the district who interacted with students, specifically students in grades six through 12.

"Our target age for the training was to reach students in grades six through 12, so we wanted to encourage anyone working with kids in those grades to attend the training. The training goes through a number of warning signs and risk factors that students may be going through and then have the knowledge of how to respond and how to help get a student the needed resources," McLouth said.

Some of the warning signs the training teaches to look for include signs of depression and/or anxiety, substance abuse, social isolation or drastic changes in behavior. Changes in appearance, attitude, behavior or in academic grades can also be indicators of mental health issues.

Participants in the training are taught to listen non-judgmentally, give reassurance, encourage self-help and other support strategies and encourage seeking appropriate help.

"The plan the training provides is not a one-day plan," McLouth said. "The support person stays with the student in crisis throughout the process. All of the people from our district that went through it said the training was beneficial especially the training on how to ask a student in crisis if they ever have thoughts of suicide and how to follow up on getting them appropriate help."

McLouth said the training focuses on getting a student help and helping them realize they can recover. Said stated that 90 percent of mental illness is treatable.

"Suicide has been the second leading cause of death in adolescents since 2016. It used to be the third leading cause. Someone between the ages of 15 and 24 commits suicide every 104 minutes. This training de-stigmatizes mental health issues so that we can help our youth in crisis," McLouth said.

About StarkMHAR

According to starkmhar.org, the agency is a multi-faceted county behavioral health board comprised of expert professionals, dedicated volunteers and concerned community leaders, Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery (StarkMHAR) believes in hope, wellness and recovery for everyone. To accomplish this vision, the mission of StarkMHAR is to support wellness and recovery through innovation in funding, collaboration, education and advocacy. StarkMHAR is empowered by the State of Ohio to plan, develop, fund, manage and evaluate community-based mental health and addiction services. Federal, state and local funds are utilized to ensure mental health and addiction prevention, treatment and recovery support services are available to individuals and families in Stark County.