Duval and St. Johns County school employees get mental health crisis training

More than 2,000 school employees in Duval and St. Johns counties have gotten training to help young people struggling with their mental health.

“We’ve got to get upstream from the problem,” said St. Johns County School District Associate Superintendent Kyle Dresback.

Dresback was one of the first people in the district trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid.
Now he's learned how to train other school district employees.

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The program is designed to teach adults how to help young people who are experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.

“It’s being able to help the adults to, one, recognize signs, to be able to look for symptoms. But, also, to be able to know, who are the right adults to be able to connect them to?” Dresback said.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act is primarily known for requiring armed officers or guardians in all schools, but the new law also requires mental health training.

More than 200 St. Johns County School District staff have been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid since August.

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In Duval County Public Schools, 2,016 have gotten the same training. The district began training employees in 2014.

“While preventing harm to self or others is certainly a part of youth mental health, the broader issue is ensuring children get the care they need thrive in school and life. It’s more than a violence-prevention issue; it’s about the comprehensive care of children,” said DCPS spokesperson Tracy Pierce.

Youth Mental Health First Aid teaches employees the following "First Aid Action Plan":
•    Assess for risk of suicide or harm
•    Listen nonjudgmentally
•    Give reassurance and Information
•    Encourage appropriate professional help
•    Encourage self-help and other support strategies