Giving Compass' Take:

• In Virginia's Fauquier County Public Schools, there is a mental health first aid course funded by grants where teachers and community members can receive training to address mental distress in schools. 

• How can donors provide teachers and administrators with funding for other mental health tools?

• Read about how SEL can promote hard conversations about mental health. 

Some schools and communities are now offering mental health first aid courses designed to help participants be better prepared to note early signs of mental distress in students and help connect them with the people and resources they need before tragedies like suicide occur, District Administration reports.

About 400 educators in Virginia's Fauquier County Public Schools and about 1,000 community members have already completed a mental health first-aid course funded by grants. The program is now becoming embedded In the community and is spreading to neighboring districts.

With teen suicides on the rise, school districts are considering what they can do to help prevent them. Suicides occur for several reasons, including depression, bullying, addiction, and relationship issues.

While most suicides do not occur at school, events at school can have an impact on a student’s decision. School is also the place where most students will meet with people outside their homes who can have an impact on their mental health and identify signs of trouble before they erupt into crisis mode. Training staff members and some mature students in the use of mental health first aid tactics can be a valuable first line of response to these issues and can help students connect with the resources they need to improve their situation.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) can benefit schools in this effort. While SEL and mental health education are not the same, they do have some commonalities. SEL can equip students with some strategies to improve mental health and combat the stress factors in their lives. It can also open discussions of mental health issues that can help remove the stigma of seeking mental health support.

While mental health support is not the primary purpose of education, it is a vital component because it affects so many aspects of education. Good mental health improves academic performance and impacts school safety.

Read the full article about training teachers to respond to mental distress by Amelia Harper at Education Dive.