State to expand mental health training for teens

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the state is expanding its mental health resources for teens and pre-teens.

“We need trusted adults for youth and peers to turn to, but sometimes it’s a little bit easier to talk to a friend or a peer,” said Sharon Bell, the Child Behavioral Health manager at NCDHHS.

Hundreds of adults in North Carolina are trained in youth “mental health first aid,” which teaches them how to help kids ages 12 to 18 experiencing a mental health crisis, Bell said.

The state plans to train students in 10th through 12th grades in teen mental health first aid starting this spring.

They’ll learn how to support their peers and encourage them to confide in a trusted adult.

“They’ll learn about signs and symptoms, what to look for, when somebody might be experiencing a behavioral health emergency or crisis,” Bell said.

Caleb Lofton, 15, is a Myers Park High School student and tries to block time to decompress from all of his responsibilities, including being a Boy Scout and a member of the marching band.

“Sometimes I go on walks outside with my dog,” Lofton said. “Sometimes I watch an episode of a TV show I really like or sometimes I just take a nap.”

Lofton is a student member of the state’s Task Force for Safer Schools.

He traveled to Raleigh in January to share his suggestions with state leaders, including expanding the training to freshmen.

He hopes the training for teens will make a life-changing difference for his classmates.

“I definitely think that it can help and potentially save lives,” said Lofton.

VIDEO: The Carolinas Get Real: Charlotte’s Hidden Crisis

Comments on this article