Teen mental health program to begin in January


CLINTON — In January, all sophomores through seniors at Clinton High School will begin training to recognize the signs of mental health challenges and learn how to help guide their classmates to a trusted adult. 

Katy Arnold, director of Clinton Academy, Rachel Tohme, CHS student services counselor, and Jessica Smiley of Heritage Behavioral Health, explained the program to school board members at Tuesday night’s meeting. 

Arnold, program coordinator for teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) in Clinton, said the program was initially created for adults who work with children so they could help them when mental health issues arise. The program was then modified for teens because studies show teens prefer to talk to their friends.  

“So we need to equip their friends to help them.” 

The tMHFA program at Clinton High School is part of a national research study and CHS one of only 80 schools in the United States selected to participate. 

Students will learn the basics of mental health and be able to recognize healthy mental health as well as the signs when others are struggling with mental health issues.  

One out of five will be impacted by a mental health issue, said Smiley. The program is designed to normalize mental health issues and allow people to talk about it.  

At CHS, the course will be five 45-minute sessions during school hours and will help students “learn how to recognize the signs of mental health issues,” Arnold said.  

Students learn to look for warning signs, ask how their friend is, listen, and help them connect with an adult, said Tohme. “Their job is not to take on that role of responsibility but to connect them to a trusted adult.” 

Students will practice what to say to their peers when they recognize these signs, added Arnold. “This is what kids need to know.”  

All CHS high school teachers will be trained in the program as well and students will be able to identify those teachers who are most comfortable having mental health conversations with students.  

The goal is for every CHS sophomore through senior to complete the training, said Arnold.