Youth and Mental Health: Eliminating the Stigma

At Camp Hochelaga in South Hero, summer camp staff members are preparing for when girls ages 6 to 17 will arrive, looking to them for leadership.  The all-girls camp prides itself on empowerment.

"We are providing our free eight-hour training to the camp councilors here at Camp Hochelaga and the training is to help provide them with education around mental health and how to become a mental health first aider," says Holly Reed, Local Coordinator for Aware Vermont.

These trainings are part of a statewide initiative called Aware Vermont.  The collaboration is between designated mental health agencies, community partners, and Vermont Care Partners.  

Vermont Care Partners has 16 non-profit, community-based agencies serving Vermonters who are affected by developmental disabilities, mental health, and substance abuse.  

These Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings, like the one Tuesday at Camp Hochelaga, are in their second year.  They can now happen across the state, thanks to a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

"I've personally had my own issues with mental health and family and friends so, I think it's so important to recognize it because so many more people are impacted by it than we actually address," says Camp Councilor Rachel Gladstone.

"We provide them with an 'algae' plan it's called," says Reed.  "It's to assess for risk of suicide or harm, listen non-judgementally, give reassurance, and encourage self help and professional help."

Reed says the course is designed for adults who regularly interact with adolescents, such as coaches, camp councilors, educators, police officers, and more.

"One in five youth will experience a mental health challenge in their lifetime," says Reed.

Reed and Gladstone agree, beginning the conversation about mental health issues surrounding youth is a small step towards improving the lives of our next generation.

"It's so important to get people who might be in denial or might not have the help they need to go out there and really improve their lives," says Gladstone.

Reed says so far, 1,600 people have been trained statewide.  The goal is 2,200 by the end of the grant.  If you're interested in attending a youth mental health training near you, contact your local coordinator and learn more information here.  

To see our interview with Aware Vermont's Project Coordinator and the Vermont Care Network's Executive Director on Local 44 Morning Brew, click here.   

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