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Supporting adolescent mental health on World Mental Health Day

Oct 09 2018
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Adolescents face a variety of stressors, and the prevalence of new tools like social media are only adding additional pressure. When not properly addressed, stress, anxiety and other difficulties can lead to behavioral health concerns that extend into adulthood.

Because adults can provide emotional support to adolescents and help them navigate these potentially troubling times, Aetna Behavioral Health now provides Youth Mental Health First Aid training which teaches adults how to assist an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge.

“Youth Mental Health First Aid is unique because it really helps participants to differentiate between what are ‘typical’ emotions, behaviors or thoughts for young people versus what might be considered ‘concerning’ or a warning that a mental health issue or crisis is developing,” said Aimee Prange, Senior Strategic Planner, Aetna Behavioral Health. “There can be overlap between these. Knowing how to talk to someone in a non-judgmental, caring and supportive manner will go a long way.”

Geared towards adult members who work with kids aged 12-18, Youth Mental Health First Aid training focuses on the unique risk factors and warning signs of common mental health problems in adolescents, such as substance use, anxiety and depression. The goal is not to teach participants to diagnosis or provide counseling; instead, through role-playing and other simulations, participants learn to assess a potential mental health issue and provide initial help.

Aetna Behavioral Health has helped train over 200 adults to watch for any developing signs of a mental illness, how best to listen to the concerns of adolescents, and strategies to provide resources and reassure them. Feedback to date has been positive.

“Our members have expressed that this training was very beneficial in their work with youths, especially learning how to respond in the event of a crisis,” said Prange. “We have also heard that the strategies to engage kids, such as asking about suicidal intentions directly, has been eye opening for our participants.”

In addition to Youth Mental Health First Aid training, Aetna Behavioral Health recommends a variety of other resources to help adolescents build mental resilience or seek help in a time of need, which is the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day – an annual October 10 event to raise awareness and reduce stigmas around a variety of mental health issues across the world.

  • Tips to stay happy and healthy on social media
  • More Than Sad – Available through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, offers resources and education for high school students, parents and teachers to recognize signs of depression, fight stigma, and demystify the treatment process.
  • Yellow Ribbon – Empowering people of all ages to raise awareness and prevent youth suicide, this organization coordinates appropriate education, training and collaboration with local and national resources to build sustainable suicide prevention programs.
  • Crisis Text Line – A free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the US to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. Crisis Text Line was born “from the rib” of DoSomething.org, the largest organization for young people and social change.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. Also provides prevention and crisis resources for individuals or their loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America Online Support Group – Offers an anonymous, peer-to-peer online anxiety and depression support group. This is a friendly, safe and supportive place for individuals and their families to share information and experiences.
  • Loveisrespect – Resource that empowers youth to prevent and end dating abuse. It is a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Text “LOVEIS” to 22522, or call 1-866-331-9474 to talk with a peer advocate.
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Young Adult Podcast Series – Hosted by members of the DBSA Young Adult Council, this podcast series is focused on the unique challenges facing young adults living with a mood disorder.

In addition to these resources, learn more about Mental Health First Aid, a training module Aetna offers that teaches public safety employees how to recognize and respond to a developing mental health problem or crisis in others and themselves.