FAMU professor Jackie C. Robinson, Ph.D., teaches a group of young men about youth mental health first aid during a recent session.
TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) Center for Ethnic Psychological Research and Application (CEPRA) is training North Florida citizens and organizations to possess skills that are in high demand across the nation in the wake of recent tragedies.
The mission of the Center is to promote mental wellness, enhance mental health literacy, and improve overall behavioral/mental health for all individuals with special emphasis on African-American and underserved populations. The Center is a part of the Department of Psychology and is housed in the College of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities.
Under the Center’s leadership, FAMU now offers the Mental Health First Aid Course and the Youth Mental Health First Aid Course. Mental health first aid is the assistance an adult provides for another adult who may be experiencing a mental health challenge, and youth mental health first aid is the assistance an adult gives a young person who may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Participants taking each course receive a certificate following the eight-hour training.
The Center recently completed trainings with representatives from the Gretna Police Department, the City of Tallahassee, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College. In addition, 23 community members became certified youth mental health first aiders during a training provided by the Center in conjunction with the University’s Annual Imhotep Interdisciplinary Student Research Conference held April 9-11.
According to FAMU professor Jackie Collins Robinson, Ph.D., the Center’s director, the training underscores the need to focus on how communities, families, and children are healing from traumatic experiences and how the healing process should be executed.
“As a society we quickly run to the aid of someone who falls or needs a Band-Aid, but aren’t as quick to respond when someone is in emotional trouble – perhaps because we are less certain about how to help,” said Robinson, a licensed clinical and school psychologist. “We also think it is important to learn first aid skills in case of physical emergencies, but most people are limited in the ability to talk to someone struggling emotionally. The present state of our society is calling us to action to focus on caring for our minds, as well as our bodies.”
The Youth Mental Health First Aid Course is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health challenge, difficulty with addiction, or is in crisis. Youth mental health first aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people.
The Center is the first organization to provide youth-focused mental health first aid training in Tallahassee. Topics covered during training sessions include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders. In addition to Robinson, FAMU professor Huijun Li, Ph.D., serves as a youth mental health first aid instructor.
“The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, covers risk and protective factors, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations,” Robinson said.
According to Robinson, the Center’s reach is extending beyond the North Florida region. Last year, Robinson traveled to Ferguson to assist local children and community members to cope with the aftermath surrounding the death of Michael Brown and the Center continues to be called upon to provide training and support to organizations around the nation.
“FAMU’s historic mandate is to provide research, service, and extension to better our communities,” Robinson said. “The Center is a great representation of how the University excels in executing its mission to advance knowledge, resolve complex issues, and empower citizens.”