Every year in the United States, about 5,000 young people take their own lives. According to a CDC report in 2016, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 34. Many more may be in crisis and don't know where to turn for help. New community mental health training in Collin County aims to change that.
Laura Hamilton wants to work with homeless teens through her church in Allen.
"I like to think of myself as a bridge. That they'll get from one point, go over that bridge that seems like it's impassable, to a better life," she said.
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In an eight-hour session in McKinney on Monday, she's learning the skills to spot warning signs in those most vulnerable.
"I wouldn't even know how to recognize it," Hamilton said.
Participants come from different backgrounds, but they're all taking part for the same reason. They want to learn about helping youth who struggle with mental illness.
It's training typically offered to district employees, but thanks to recent fundraising, it's now available for free to Collin County residents through LifePath Systems, the local behavioral health authority.
"Mental health can be somewhat of a taboo subject and knowing how to recognize some of those signs and symptoms that a young person might be developing, I think is key," LifePath behavioral health director Daniella Sneed said.
Sneed compared the training to learning CPR, complete with a first aid action plan called ALGEE.
Assess for risk of suicide or harm
Listen non judgmentally
Give reassurance and information
Encourage appropriate professional help
Encourage self-help and other support strategies
"It's a godsend for a lot of people," Hamilton said.
"I think the approach is sometimes what is scary, recognizing that something's wrong and not being able to know how to approach that younger person," Sneed said.
Participants ran through different scenarios, such as talking to teens who are suicidal. Sneed said a lot of people are scared to ask about it, for fear it may encourage the threat, when in reality it may relieve anxiety and lessen the likelihood that it's carried out.
For Hamilton, the session instilled the confidence to at least try to help someone in need.
"I'm not saying I'm a pro, but at least I'm aware of the possibilities, the difference that a person can make in a teen's life," she said.
There are several upcoming training dates available at LifePath in McKinney, including adult mental health first aid on February 8 and April 12. The next session focused on youth mental health is on March 15. Again, all sessions are free. You can learn more or register here.