In 2015, the NJ State Library (NJSL) sponsored four classes for library staff to be trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid, so as to enable them to deal calmly and effectively with customers who may be suffering from stress or mental health issues in their lives. In June 2018, NJSL teamed up with LibraryLinkNJ to host Youth Mental Health First Aid USA, an 8 hour public education program designed to introduce librarians to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, build understanding of the importance of early intervention, and teaches how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge. The classes used role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect young people to professional, peer, social and self-help care.
The course taught participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescents, including anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, AD/HD, disruptive behavior disorders and substance use disorder. Participants learned how to support a youth developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis by applying a core five-step action plan:
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm
- Listen nonjudgmentally
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
The Youth Mental Health First Aid USA curriculum is primarily focused on information participants can use to help adolescents and transition-age youth, ages 12-18.