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Voices of Mental Health First Aid: teen Mental Health First Aid Taught Me How to Help My Friends

How do you help someone who is struggling? How do you help them without making assumptions about what they are going through, and without making it worse?  

These are all questions that I learned the answers to during the teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) class 

tMHFA teaches that teens prefer to tell other teens about what they are going through. This is why it’s important for us to know what to do if confronted with a situation in which we need to react and support our friends or peers. 

Personally, I have never had close experiences with self-harm or suicide. However, I have friends who have experienced this. I see what my friends are going through and how hard it is on them. I wasn’t sure how to react in the past. I’m thankful that now, because of tMHFA, I know how to help them if I need to.  

Every person is different, and their mental health journey is too. What I appreciate about tMHFA is that it teaches you how to be a trusting and supportive friend, and how to take real steps to offer help and support. It provides an Action Plan you can use in any situation and for any person who may be facing a mental health challenge. It also teaches you where to find safe and comfortable help, whether that is an online resource, a help line, text support, or an adult in your community. 

The training really focuses on why it’s important to get the help of a trusted adult, and teaches you how to safely reach out to an adult in your community or school and get that help without feeling judged. Even though you might feel like talking to an adult is betraying your friend’s trust, it really isn’t. As a friend, you are doing what is best for that person and for you. You are helping your friend get additional support that can help them in the long term.  

It’s important to understand what mental health is and what to do if someone around you is struggling. This training taught me how to take care of my own mental health with healthy coping mechanisms and taught me how to be a trusting and supportive friend to people around me. Because of this training, I can #BeTheDifference and know what to do if faced with this situation. 

For more information about teen Mental Health First Aid, visit MHFA.org/teens 

teen Mental Health First Aid is run by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and supported by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. 

teen Mental Health First Aider Ella Vaillancourt is a student at Manitou Springs High School in Manitou Springs, Colorado.