Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation and the National Council for Behavioral Health announced that they will expand teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) to 20 additional high schools around the country this fall.
The innovative new peer-to-peer program empowers young people to support each other in times of need or crisis.
“With teen Mental Health First Aid, we like to say, it’s okay to not be okay,” said Lady Gaga, co-founder of Born This Way Foundation, onstage at her Las Vegas concert as she spoke to 16 students who had just completed the first tMHFA pilot in eight schools across the country. “Sometimes when life gives you a million reasons to not want to stay, you need just one person that looks at you, listens to you, helps you get help and validates how you feel.”
“Together, Born This Way and the National Council have put this program in eight schools and soon it will be in 20 more. I know for certain that I’m not stopping here,” she continued. “I want the teen Mental Health First Aid program in every school in this country.”
tMHFA is an in-person training for high school students in grades 10 to 12 to learn about mental illnesses, including how to identify and respond to a developing mental health or substance use problem among their peers. Similar to CPR, students learn a 5-step action plan to help their friends who may be facing a mental health problem or crisis, such as suicide, and highlights the important step of involving a responsible and trusted adult.
“It’s not really ‘normal’ to talk about mental health with people. Being able to help everyone know about mental health and the real struggles that everyone is experiencing is important,” said Drew Voris, a recent graduate of Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Mo., one of the students who nationally completed the pilot program. “Nobody says, ‘I can’t go to the party because I had a panic attack.’ They’ll make up an excuse. To be able to openly talk about being on antidepressants or dealing with anxiety, to have that awareness and to have that normal talk about mental health is really important.”
Addressing the mental health needs of teens is critically important. Half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 and three-quarters by the mid-20s. Left unaddressed, mental health issues can lead to serious consequences for a young person’s well-being, including increased risk of dropping out of school or experiencing homelessness. Tragically, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds.
“teen Mental Health First Aid is a logical next step in the Mental Health First Aid program,” said Betsy Schwartz, vice president for public education and strategic initiatives at the National Council for Behavioral Health. “It’s so important that teens have the skills to help each other in the language that they use every day – that is the power of peer-to-peer intervention. This innovative new program will help us reach more young people in need as we break down misconceptions about mental illness and grow our family of 1.7 million Mental Health First Aiders.”
More schools are recognizing that they have a lifesaving role to play and are training school staff to help students with Youth Mental Health First Aid, an adult-to-adolescent program. While this is an important step, research has shown that many adolescents turn to peers for support, making programs like tMHFA that prepare youth themselves for these situations is critically important.
Run by the National Council for Behavioral Health and supported by Born This Way Foundation, teen Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based response to the mental health challenges encountered by one in five American teens.
Learn more about teen Mental Health First Aid.