By Lauren Metcalf , SBHA Youth Advisory Council member
The following reflects Lauren’s lived experiences, thoughts, and opinions.
Nearly a third of youth struggled with mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This has only increased conversations about the youth mental health crisis. As a teen, hearing these conversations can often feel isolating. Youth are not always engaged in the conversations about what kind of help they need or how they can help others. . Often the only information given to us are the frequent reminders to check on our friends. Most youth and even adults struggle when checking in with our peers, especially when it comes to asking, “Are you thinking of suicide?”
I never would have considered asking this before receiving crisis intervention training. In December 2021, I received Youth Mental Health First Aid and SafeTalk trainings to be able to support teens during a crisis. . More recently I was able to get Assisted Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). I now have the essential skills needed to ask if someone is having thoughts of suicide and connect them to the support they need and deserve. But each training’s method differs. SafeTalk and Youth Mental Health First Aid work to identify when someone is having thoughts of suicide and connect them to support, while ASIST focuses on working through immediate concerns of safety. ASIST is a two-day training, which allows for more depth and the ability to address how to handle situations where there is a higher concern for safety.
I have applied the skills I acquired in my everyday life. Because of these trainings, I am comfortable talking about suicidal ideation and identifying when someone may be thinking of suicide. These skills have allowed me to support my peers during times of need and connect them to long-term support.
School-based health care includes much more than physical health care. It’s about adopting a well-rounded approach to health that includes mental health. Mental health has been a priority over the past several years, yet there is still a shortage of mental health professionals, causing a gap in access to care. To fill this gap, people who do not have adequate training have been called upon to address mental health issues. Although receiving crisis intervention training does not qualify someone to provide long-term care, it is a step toward assessing risk for imminent harm and getting people the help they need and deserve. To address the lack of training, school-based health centers and other youth-focused organizations can make crisis intervention training widely available to youth and those who work with them.
CDC. “New CDC Data Illuminate Youth Mental Health Threats during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Mar. 2022, www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p0331-youth-mental-health-covid-19.html.