Mental Health First Aid for Teens: Insights from a Teacher | MSU Today

Kea Norrell-Aitch is an educator at Michigan State University’s Institute for Children and Youth Extension. She specializes in mental and emotional health programs for youth and teens statewide, and has received both Michigan 4-H Walmart Healthy Habits as well as her STOP-Preventing School Violence grant. In 2012, Norrell H. was recognized as an advocate for change by then-President Barack Obama and the White House.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but what about other months? Mental health is just as important as physical health, but we don’t realize it and aren’t prepared for it in the same way. Mental health first aid courses teach that there is no stigma attached to medical problems such as a broken arm or diagnosing an autoimmune disease, but why are we being so overwhelmed when it comes to mental health issues?

Kea Norrell-Aitch is a certified instructor for the Mental Health First Aid program, which teaches participants how to identify and respond to mental health issues, substance abuse, and crisis situations. This course provides knowledge on how to provide care for the injured until emergency medical professionals can take over. Kea Norrell-Aitch is also a Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor, working directly with teens to teach them about adolescent mental health issues.

MSU Extension now has two teams providing mental health first aid to adults working with adolescents and teens. They have a total of 12 instructors dedicated to advancing mental health knowledge in communities, schools, farms, and professional settings, and have trained over 1,800 individuals.

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond, consider taking a mental health first aid course. Crisis is subjective and may be perceived differently by different people. If you see someone change their behavior significantly, stop enjoying the things they used to love, become isolated, or get too much or too little sleep or food, be firm and speak up. Remember that mental health is just as important as physical health. Seek out mental health resources and support if you need it.

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