Supportive Services for Youth
Housing Specialists, Juanita Contreras and Will Bergstrom, along with other Associated Ministries staff and members of the community, attended an all-day training on youth mental health first aid. This training was designed to help increase the understanding of how to assist youth who are dealing with mental health concerns. I recently held a conversation with Juanita and Will to gain their insights into the training and what we can do to help youth afflicted with mental health issues.
Wendy Morris: What did you learn from the training?
Juanita Contreras: “We discussed many of the diagnoses and behavioral problems/disorders that youth might face including depression, anxiety, ADHD and more, and how to recognize potential signs in youth.
WM: Was the issue of suicide among youth discussed?”
Will Bergstrom: “Yes, there was a strong focus on recognizing potential suicidal youth. Listening to the language that they’re using, paying attention to any mention of the word “suicide”. A point that both the adult and youth Mental Health First Aid trainings stressed is to directly ask folks “are you thinking of killing yourself” if we have gotten any indication that the threat might be a serious one. The strong wording is difficult to accept, and asking a youth that sort of question is never comfortable, but sometimes asking that question can make all the difference.
JC: “We also discussed the story of the guy who survived an attempted suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge, and he said that he wouldn’t have done it if just one person had stopped to check to see if he was ok.”
WM: What do you feel the community needs to do to help?
WB: “There is definitely a need for mental health resources tailored towards youth in Pierce County. We have only just recently gotten a homeless shelter for youth, and even that is part time. Similarly, there are school counselors, and some mental health resources that engage youth, but a youth-tailored program would be good.”
WM: What can individual people do to help?
JC: “Pay attention to what youth are saying, and have crisis line info on hand. Don’t be afraid to ask how a youth is doing if they are exhibiting signs of depression or withdrawal- sometimes a friendly hello makes all the difference.”
WM: How can people learn more? What resources are out there for people to get involved?
WB: Learn about youth programs in your community or consider applying to be a host home. Programs that help youth, including REACH, Community Youth Services or VADIS are always in need of assistance including donations and volunteers.