BLOG: Training trainers: Youth Mental Health First Aid comes to Stark County!

Categories: Blog

Teens-school-FT-NewsThis week, October 24-28, will be noteworthy and exciting for Stark County as the National Council for Behavioral Health will be on site to provide a training of the trainers! Because of the generosity of the Austin Bailey Health and Wellness Foundation to Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery, 30 individuals from Stark County’s school districts will be trained in order to facilitate the expansion of Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). StarkMHAR will also be partnering with Stark Educational Services Center (ESC) and Sandy Hook Promise.

Youth Mental Health First Aid introduces common mental health problems, including signs and symptoms of behavioral issues, stigma associated with mental illness, how to help in a crisis and non-crisis situation and where to get help for youth.

Why is youth mental health training important?

  • YMHFA is designed to be utilized as an early intervention or early treatment model
  • The goal is to intervene before the person is in full crisis to assist in resolving the problem or assisting the person in getting appropriate care
  • Can also be helpful in maintaining a supportive role after a crisis

To date, over 100 individuals have been trained in Stark County, and over the course of the next two years, our community will reach a goal of 1,350 Youth Mental Health First Aiders who come in contact with youth 12-18, who may be experiencing a mental health or addiction problem, or is in crisis. Previously trained participants include school-based personnel such as resource officers, teachers and counselors, as well as community and faith-based organizations.

Why do we need mental health training in schools?

  • Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs (Jason Foundation, 2016).
  • Each day in our nation there are an average of 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12 (some estimates say 25 attempts for every death, others say 100-200 attempts for every death for youth) (Jason Foundation, 2016).
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined (CDC, 2013).

Youth Mental Health First Aid training in our school districts will allow for more adult allies to be knowledgeable about signs and symptoms, and know what to do (in a 5-step action plan) if they encounter a youth that needs help. All of us at StarkMHAR are excited about the partnership with Stark ESC to expand the cadre of trainers in Stark County.

For more information, or to attend Youth Mental Health First Aid training in Stark County, please visit or call 330-455-6644.


About Jessica Zavala

Jessica Zavala joined the clinical team at Stark Mental Health & Addiction Recovery in October of 2014 as the Community Engagement-Youth Services Coordinator. At StarkMHAR, Jessica supports efforts and partnerships that improve access, quality and utilization of service within culturally diverse communities. She also monitors and reviews programs that serve traditionally underserved populations as well as youth and family programs. In addition, Jessica is responsible for supporting school district and school-based promotional activities that promote resiliency and improve recovery outcomes, including participation in Care Team initiatives. Jessica is currently a Youth Mental Health First Aid and Cultural Competency Trainer. Prior to Jessica’s role in the clinical department, she joined StarkMHAR in 2013 as the Electronic Health Records Specialist relocating from Arizona where she was employed by Arizona’s Children Association. While employed in Arizona, Jessica assisted in the facilitation of statewide training for agency staff using NEXTGEN. In addition to the electronic software efforts, Jessica developed service programs with the collaboration of key community stakeholders to implement, monitor and plan behavioral health services for families and children with varying service needs. Jessica’s role also included assessing substance exposed newborns (birth to 5) and children through agency partnership with Child Protective Services and Best for Babies, a local collaborative. Jessica also was employed by an Outpatient Community-Based Mental Health Organization prior to her tenure in Arizona and had an active role in consumer treatment services. Jessica has a Bachelor’s in Sociology from the University of Akron, a certificate of Business Management Technology and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Leadership. Jessica is also bilingual and speaks Spanish fluently.