Spotting the Danger Signs: Mental Health Training
By Dianne Anderson
No one wants to think about child and youth suicide, but ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away.
Kids are starting early, considering taking their own lives or actually following through from as young as five years old, and Black kids are particularly not immune.
At last count in ten years ending 2013, the number of Black children from age five through 11 that committed suicide doubled, while the number of white kids that committed suicide decreased, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Wednesday, September 13, concerned advocates for youth can learn to spot the danger signs before a crisis becomes a tragedy. The event, held at the Children’s Network runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., located at 825 E. Hospitality Ln. in San Bernardino.
Jonathan Buffong, Mental Health Education Consultant with the San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health, said the free event is geared toward helping the community learn how to intervene with youth and adults in distress.
In partnership Children’s Network Mentoring Taskforce and the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, the Youth Mental Health First Aid – San Bernardino training addresses the common signs of mental illnesses. The all day training offers an action plan for addictions, how to provide assistance, and where to turn for local resources.
Buffong said the 8-hour event is open to those that work with teens and youth, but who may not be familiar local resources that can help the at risk population.
“In case they had a suicidal issue and need someone to talk to, if they had issues, feeling depressed or anxious, this training is going to help you resource them to someone that can help them,” Buffong said.
Participants will learn common substance abuse issues, psychosis, and schizophrenia. In the past, Buffong has hosted the event, and will lead another community outreach next month.
Because the subject matter is heavy, usually he said the program tries to accommodate a small class for greater impact. Classes bring out a good cross section of the community, including nonprofits, and church leaders that service local kids.
While they frequently work with agencies and professionals, he said this particular event is offered free for newcomers that work with youth. Those that finish the eight hours will receive a certificate of completion. Registration for the event is required.
Many of the larger nonprofit leaders in the community that work with youth have already gone through behavioral health training. This particular event is for people that need the right connections.
“There are folks that are not necessarily connected to Behavioral Health Services, that need to know we provide this for free. There’s so many more out there that could use this training,” he said.
The program, which targets vulnerable youth with services, is nationwide, but also recognized for its approach in Australia and Europe.
He said it’s the same training that Michelle Obama completed.
“She said we really need to push this type of training all over the United States, and start with our colleges,” he said. “It’s really starting to catch steam now. ”
For youth and older African Americans, several academic studies link the stress of discrimination and racism to increased mental health problems. The CDC places suicide as the third leading cause of death for African American youth from 15 to 24 years old.
Black males are most at risk.
Any number of reasons could be responsible for the high rates, including stress from social injustice or racism. Several studies in recent years link some mental health disorders in the adult community with poverty, racism and discrimination. For younger children, it’s problems within the home or with close friends.
“Since the Black community in the United States is disproportionately young, the number of deaths among youth may have a particularly strong impact on the Black community. Black Americans die by suicide a full decade earlier than White Americans. The average age of Black suicide decedents is 32, and that of White decedents,” according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
SPRC is supported by grants from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They report that the best protection against suicide is staying connected to individuals, family and community, with social institutions, and contact with caregivers.
In the Black community, the church and attendance still plays a vital role, and is linked to lower suicide rates.
“Family support, peer support, and community connectedness have been shown to help protect Black adolescents from suicidal behavior. Similarly, positive interactions and social and family support have been shown to significantly reduce the risk for suicide attempts among Black adults,” SPRC fact sheet states.
To register for the event, call the Children’s Network at 909-383-9677
For help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255