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Lafayette Parish School System Introduces Mental Health First Aid

Lafayette Joins National Initiative to Increase Mental Health Literacy

The Lafayette Parish School System in cooperation with The Knowledge Effect, an initiative of Lafayette Consolidated Government, is initiating the Youth Mental Health First Aid program in Lafayette. The Lafayette Parish School System will train over 300 middle and high school faculty and staff in August and September to improve mental health literacy – helping them identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.  Trainings will be every Saturday in August and September and participants will receive a stipend for the day.

“We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid to our community,” said Sandra Billeaudeau, Director of Activities and Planning. “This important educational effort goes a lot further than emergency intervention; it really helps people understand the shroud of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and addiction.  It will help rid this community of the associated stigma and move more and more people toward recovery.”

Mental Health First Aid is a 8-hour training certification course which teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions and secure appropriate care for the individual, the certification program introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common treatments.  Thorough evaluations in randomized controlled trials and a quantitative study have proved the CPR-like program effective in improving trainees’ knowledge of mental disorders, reducing stigma and increasing the amount of help provided to others.  

“We welcome Lafayette Parish School System’s involvement and enthusiasm in the Mental Health First Aid community,”  says Linda Rosenberg, MSW, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, the organization who brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008.  “We know they will have a great impact on the mental health communities throughout Lafayette, and will be key players in improving mental health literacy nationwide.”

In its pilot year, the program was introduced in nearly twenty states and more than 40 communities nationwide.  The National Council certified eight LPSS employees to provide the Mental Health First Aid program in February, 2015 through an instructor certification course.  Lafayette Parish School System and all the sites across the nation that replicate this program maintain strict fidelity to the original, proven program.  

Mental Health First Aid originated in 2001 in Australia under the direction of founders Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm. To date, it has been replicated in twenty other countries worldwide, including Hong Kong, Scotland, England, Canada, Finland, and Singapore.