Youth mental health first aid course is July 15
by Mark Ledbetter
Adolescent misbehavior may be attributed to a variety of things including normal adolescent development. Some misbehavior, however, can be attributed to mental illness and Richard Bonds and Cheaha Mental Health believe it is vital to recognize the difference between normal adolescent behavior and youth suffering from mental illness.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports four million children and adolescents across the nation suffer from serious mental disorders resulting in significant functional impairment.

Columbia University’s National Center for Mental Health Center estimates in Alabama there are over 70,000 youth from ages 10 to 19 that suffer from serious mental health issues.

The NAMI also reports half of all lifetime causes of mental disorder begin by age 14 and despite the availability of effective treatments there are long delays between the onset of symptoms and their recognition and treatment. As adults the treatment of mental illness becomes more costly. Untreated, adults with mental illness contribute significantly to limited or no employment and poverty in adulthood.

As youth, however, NAMI suggests 50 percent of youth age 14 and older living with mental illness will drop out of school, and 65 percent of boys and 75 percent of girls in juvenile detention suffer from at least one mental illness.

“No other illness harms so many children so seriously,” NAMI reports

Based on 2009 figures, The National Center for Mental Health reports eight percent of Alabama youth ages 12 to 17 suffer from major depressive episodes, four percent abuse or become drug dependent, five percent abuse or become alcohol dependent.

The NCMH also reports in Alabama from 1999 to 2009 suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth 11 to 21 years old.

The Center reports in 2009 during a 12 month period 29 percent felt sad and hopeless enough to halt usual activity, 17 percent thought seriously about suicide, 15 percent made plans to commit suicide, 11 percent attempted suicide, and three percent of those attempting suicide required medical attention.

“Teen suicide and non-suicidal self-injuries are issues we face here in southern Talladega County,” Bonds said.

Bonds, who is certified as both an adult and youth mental health first aid instructor, and Cheaha Regional Mental Health Center, is offering for the first time in central and north Alabama a course on Youth Mental Health First Aid.

The course provides eight hours of instruction designed to assist people who work with youth to recognize the signs and symptoms of youth mental illness, and help youth get through their issues until they receive professional mental health and is similar to the course Mental Health First Aid offered earlier this year.

Bonds said the class is excellent for anyone working with youth including teachers, coaches, social workers, prevention workers, youth group leaders, and Sunday School teachers.

“We will deal a lot in looking in how kids are normally and how they act and feel when they experience mental illness,” Bonds said, “and how to tell the difference because so many of the mental illnesses and disorders we see in kids have signs and symptoms that are also seen in normal adolescent development.”

The Maryland and Missouri Departments of Mental Health and The Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare developed the Mental Health First Aid teaching materials and the material offered in the youth version is similar but with an emphasis on youth issues.

“This is a fun and informative look into the minds of our youth and may help us ‘grown ups’ understand those ‘crazy teenagers’ better,” Bonds exclaimed. “Adolescent development is a huge part of this material, and I think we all need a refresher course in teen development.”

The course will be presented at the Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce July 15 from 8 am until 5:30 p.m. Registration begins at 7:45 and the class starts at 8 a.m.

Cost is $35 for individuals associated with non-profit organizations and $50 for profit organizations. Some scholarships are offered.

The class is limited to 25 participants and individuals can register by calling Amber Behnke at 256-245-1340, and for more information call Richard Bonds at 256-249-2395.

Contact Mark Ledbetter at

© 2013