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Santa Maria area high schools to begin new mental health training program

Santa Maria Joint Union High School District (SMJUHSD) is teaming up with a local nonprofit to help promote mental wellness.

Transitions-Mental Health Association (TMHA) will soon provide all of the SMJUHSD campuses with a wide-range of professional mental health training.

It’s part of the district’s effort to give students and staff a healthier platform so they can succeed.

“There are some things that we’re going to do with our ASB and Link Crew, part of it is going to be in our health classes that we’re going to be doing also, but more importantly there’s training that needs to go on with our counseling staff and regular staff also,” said Steve Molina, SMJUHSD Local Control Funding Formula Task Force Coordinator.

According to Transition Fund Grant Manager Michael Kaplan, training will include two nationally recognized methods, Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) and Youth Mental Health First Aid.

“We are helping these young people have the conversation about this topic in a way that is meaningful and respectful,” said Kaplan.

The agreement comes as the nation faces a growing problem of mental illness among young adults.

A Centers for Disease Control study shows that one in five kids in the United States displays signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.

A 2015 California Healthy Kids Survey found 16.5% of students surveyed had “seriously considered attempting suicide” in the past 12 months.

Students at Santa Maria High School said the many pressures of going their teenage years can make life challenging.

“There are a lot of kids and students struggling and going through a lot and no one really seems to notice it,” said sophomore Kimberly Cruz. “Sometimes it can be hard because people who are going through really hard stuff, they don’t like mentioning about it. They like keeping it to themselves. They don’t like talking about it because maybe it hurts them too much.”

Mental health training will help students recognize warning signs and also provide information on how they can react when they see them.

Training should take place over a two-day period in health classes and will be lectured by guest facilitators.

Last year, San Luis Obispo-based TMHA began the school mental wellness training in 10 different San Luis Obispo County schools.

The program was such a success, they wanted to expand it to Northern Santa Barbara County. It is also being expanded to more San Luis Obispo County schools as well.

Santa Maria students are encouraged the district is addressing the issue with a proactive approach.

“It’s good because it helps kids know that they’re not alone and get help if they do need help so they don’t try and do anything bad to themselves or anyone else,” said sophomore Andrea Chavez.

The mental health training program is being funded through a grant by the Gertrude & Leonard Fairbanks Foundation, meaning there will be no charge to SMJUHSD.

TMHA is hoping to have training begin as early as October.

For more information about the high school outreach program, visit the TMHA community program website.

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