CHESTER COUNTY

Mental health education

pilot plan to be offered

COATESVILLE The Brandywine Health Foundation will launch a four-year pilot program this week to help school district employees learn to identify mental health issues in students through a nationally used course.

As part of a nationwide effort to improve mental health responses and reduce stigma, teachers, and staff in the Coatesville Area School District will take a course to understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse.

School district staffers taking the Youth Mental Health First Aid course will learn how to intervene in various situations, such as children having suicidal thoughts, panic attacks or reactions to traumatic events.

"The goal is not to make you a therapist," said Frances Sheehan, president and CEO of the Brandywine Health Foundation. "The goal is to help you identify what the issues may be and help someone with a next step."

Part of the program is learning the five-step ALGEE process: assess risk of harm, listen without judgment, give reassurance and information, encourage appropriate professional help, and encourage self-help strategies.

The National Council for Behavioral Health promotes the mental health first aid training. - Michaelle Bond