Three hundred Paterson school district employees received training in Mental Health First Aid, a program that helps trainees to identify and respond to mental illness and substance abuse, over the summer.
Teachers, administrators, parents, and recent district graduates participated in the eight-hour training session on the Mental Health First Aid for adults.
“Developing our ability to attend to our students’ social and emotional wellbeing is a goal that has been identified in the new five-year strategic plan, but our efforts to train our staff have been underway for a year,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer in a statement on Thursday. “We hope to be able to provide cohesive support in our district community and establish viable resources for anyone who is in need of help.”
Previously, 2018-19 school year, 325 district staff members participated in the training sessions Mental Health First Aid for youth, according to the district.
The training equipped participants with instruction on assessing suicide risk or harm, listening without judgement, giving reassurance and resources to support, and encouraging self-help.
“The point of the training is not to have staff replace mental health professionals or medical attention that may be needed,” said chief special education officer Cheryl Coy, “but rather to enable district staff to better identify potential crises that may occur and to know the correct actions to take in response.”
Coy identified Mental Health First Aid program and saw it as a way for staff to identify mental health illness and addiction to provide early intervention.
The training will be available to all district employees in October. School officials, as a result of the training, will develop a mental health curriculum for all Paterson students.