Why Every Parent Needs To Be A Mental Health First Aider

The mental wellbeing of Black youth has suffered greatly in the last few years. That’s why it’s important that parents be able to notice signs of a crisis.

Research has found that one in five adolescents (between ages 12-18) will suffer from at least one diagnosable mental health disorder. In addition to that, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-14, and the third leading cause of death among those ages 15-24 in the United States. The CDC reports that “Black youths are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles than their non-Black peers.” The report also indicates that “suicide is increasing at a faster rate for Black youths than it is for any other racial or ethnic group (36.6%).” These are very sobering statistics and a clear sign that our youth are in crisis. The reality is that many parents will face a child suffering from a mental health disorder.

While some parents take general first aid training as part of their parenting journey, most struggle or feel ill-equipped to provide support to their children when they are experiencing mental health challenges. This is where Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and becoming a Mental Health First Aider is so critical.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing defines Mental Health First Aid as “a course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.” Established in 2001 in Australia, MHFA made the leap to the United States where it was adopted and adapted for the U.S. audience. Mental Health First Aid USA has trained over three million people including former First Lady Michelle Obama. MHFA USA has a dedicated base of more than 15,000 instructors and provides an action plan that teaches people who receive training to identify and address potential mental illness or substance use disorders safely and responsibly.

Becoming a Mental Health First Aider means you can recognize the signs, symptoms, and behaviors associated with mental health and/or substance use challenges, that you are capable of creating a safe space conducive to open communication, and you are aware of the resources that exist to provide professional support to children and adolescents in need. Parents are often the first to be aware that their child or child’s friends are struggling and becoming a Mental Health First Aider is an excellent resource to better equip them, as well as extended family and community members with the skills and experience needed to support the young people in their lives.