In 2015, the West Virginia Department of Education was awarded the Now is the Time Project AWARE grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration.
“There’s so many factors that make West Virginia at risk and our children are hurting. If we can have as many people as possible recognize the signs and the symptoms and the risk factors and build up the protective factors for our youth, our youth will be so much better off,” said WV Mental Health First Aid Coordinator Dianna Bailey-Miller.
Since, with goals of addressing mental health and assisting communities, nearly 6,000 people have been trained to identify and respond to mental health issues.
Speaker Tramaine El-Amin from the National Council of Behavioral Health worked with instructors to relate tools and tricks to their community.
“Our mental health is not separate from our physical health and we really need to pay attention to that and in order to do that we need the skills,” said El-Amin.
“1.2 million people have been trained in every state across the country and it is so important because one in five of us has a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year.”
The West Virginia Project AWARE hosted its first Mental Health First Aid Instructors Retreat at Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center. Forty instructors from across the state attended the retreat to learn more and network with others.
“We all have different little tricks and hacks that work really well for us and we have been able to share that and also celebrate the incredible work that’s being done in West Virginia,” said Adolescent Health Coordinator Selina Vickers.
The first aid program introduces participants to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, the importance of early intervention, and teaches how to help.
“How often do we know someone who might be experiencing emotional distress or crisis and we don’t know what to do; we don’t know who to call? What Mental Health First Aid does is really provide that accessible information,” said El-Amin.
“This is not just a course; it’s a movement, and what it’s teaching us is how to be better neighbors again.”
Coordinators say the retreat was all about self-care and raising awareness for the changes happening nationally.