story by Homma Rafi
Director of Communications, School of Public Health
ATLANTA—The School of Public Health at Georgia State University has received a $624,000 federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to implement a mental health awareness training program for adults who regularly interact with youth. The program aims to increase community capacity to identify mental health concerns in children ages 12 to 18 and improve their access to needed supports and services.
Adults who regularly interact with youth, such as community center leaders and school personnel, will be trained on the Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) curriculum. The evidence-based curriculum will train non-clinicians to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns in youth and respond to those who are experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.
Dr. Natasha De Veauuse Brown, research assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences and in the Center for Leadership in Disability, is the principal investigator of the five-year project.
“This funding comes at a critical time when young people are increasingly facing more life challenges that can negatively impact their psychological, emotional and social well-being in the short- and long-term,” said Dr. De Veauuse Brown. “Equipping the adults in their life with the knowledge and practical skills to identify potential mental health issues early on is essential for addressing and/or thwarting the development of serious emotional disturbances and mental disorders now and later in life.”
The trainees of the YMHFA program will also learn de-escalation strategies to use with youth having a mental health crisis or emotional disturbance and how to make the “warm handoff” to a licensed mental health professional as needed.
“Ideally, the project will yield a significant decrease in the damaging stigma surrounding mental illness that exists in so many communities,” said Dr. De Veauuse Brown. “Additionally, the planned activities will ultimately result in heightened awareness about the importance of mental health given its ability to directly impact multiple areas of a person’s life, such as physical health, relationships and educational success. The hope is that a person with a mental health challenge will not be embarrassed to seek the help they need and that they will receive the same support and encouragement from the people in their life that they would if they had a medical concern such as diabetes or a broken leg.”
The project will initiate a community awareness campaign with the annual goal of training 400 participants to help build capacity, increase knowledge about mental illness services and increase the number of referrals made to mental health services for youth in crisis. The campaign aims to bring attention to the need for culturally competent and developmentally appropriate services for youth experiencing a mental health challenge, including assessing the effectiveness and cultural appropriateness of a YMHFA curriculum made for people who speak Spanish.
For more information on the project, contact Dr. De Veauuse Brown at [email protected].
Dr. Natasha De Veauuse Brown
Research Assistant Professor
Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences
School of Public Health
Dr. De Veauuse Brown’s research focuses primarily on risk behavior reduction and improving the quality of life of children, adolescents and young adults, with an emphasis on sexual behaviors, violence, mental health and substance abuse.