TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - From a health crisis to a mental health crisis, the CDC is reporting a jump in cases of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts during the pandemic.
And youth are not immune.
As Mental Health Awareness Week kicked off on Sunday, Oct. 4, the Arizona Youth Partnership highlighted a program that’s helping people get critical support when they need it most.
“Like CPR; you’re just there to keep the blood flowing to organs until the EMTs and an MD shows up, it’s the same thing with mental health first aid,” said Mary Anne Fout, the community initiatives team leader at AZYP. "You’re there to talk to the youth and reassure them they can get help until we can refer them to a professional if necessary.”
Fout said even though the signs of trauma are different with a physical injury compared to a mental one, the outcome is the same.
“You could potentially save a life,” she said.
Fout is on a mission to teach people how recognize the signs of mental distress and how to respond. She said this program is needed now more than ever.
“We know that before the pandemic, one in five youth were living with or suffering from a mental challenge,” she said. “Those challenges are increasing as youth are isolated from their friends, from their teachers."
AZYP is entering its last year of the three-year grant program. So far, about 450 people have been certified in mental health first aid in Pima County, including Elaine MacPherson.
“I work with two different groups of youth in my current position as a youth program manager at Arizona Serve,” she said.
While MacPherson said she’s never faced a critical situation, the training has enabled her to have “healthier, more impactful and more compassionate conversations” with teenagers and young adults.
“(Especially right now), they are not getting to experience these normal milestones young people get to go through,” MacPherson said. “Whether that’s graduation, or whether it’s something much more basic like being able to work.”
The first aid program recently went virtual and is available to the general public (parents, pastors, teachers, coaches, neighbors, etc.).
To sign up, click HERE.