WEAC member Barb VanDoorn says all school districts should adopt Mental Health First Aid

From the Department of Public Instruction ConnectEd newsletter

Supporting the mental health of students is integral to preparing all kids to graduate college and career ready, but how can schools invest more in this when there are so few resources to go around?

One strategy is to build the capacity of the whole community to voluntarily recognize and support youth who are facing mental health challenges, and to refer them to existing resources when necessary.

That’s the angle of the public education program called Mental Health First Aid (or Youth Mental Health First Aid). The program started in Australia, reaching the United States in 2008.

(WEAC member) Barb VanDoorn is the guidance counselor for Lake Holcombe, a small K-12 district in Northern Wisconsin.

She told State Superintendent Tony Evers that for virtually anyone, “in some way, mental health is going to complicate your life,” through personal connections or professional responsibilities.

In her rural area, VanDoorn sees her public education role as particularly important because other community resources are limited.

“All they need is eight hours of commitment of their time, and we’ll train them!” she says.

Youth Mental Health First Aid was also used as part of a successful capacity building approach in Appleton, as discussed in the Wisconsin School Mental Health Framework.

In the short video below, Barb VanDoorn talks with State Superintendent Tony Evers about why she has become a Mental Health First Aid instructor: