Adolescent mental health first responders break down barriers and stigma

In response to our nation’s mental health crisis, the Reading and Berks County YMCA is now offering first aid training to youth in Berks County. Thanks to the generosity of the Berks County Community Foundation’s Home Health Care Foundation Fund, Y was able to raise entry fees for this life-saving program. This groundbreaking, skills-based course teaches people how to recognize, understand, and respond to the signs and symptoms of mental health problems or substance use problems in youth. Similar to physical first aid and CPR, youth mental health first aid helps you assist a youth in a crisis until professional help is sought or the crisis is resolved.

One in five Americans has experienced a mental illness, and the pandemic has dramatically increased depression and anxiety, but many are reluctant to seek help or don’t know where to turn. Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and drug use can be difficult to spot. Friends and family members may find it difficult to know when and how to intervene. As a result, those who need mental health services often do not receive care until it is too late.

Adolescent mental health first responders will learn a 5-step action plan that will guide them through the process of reaching out and offering appropriate support. Alyssa Bushkie, Director of Operations at the Reading and Berks County YMCA, is the first trained presenter for the program. She states, “Fifty percent of all mental illness begins by age 14, which is why this training is so important for teachers, coaches, parents, and others who regularly interact with adolescents.” Since its inception, mental health first aid has grown into a full blown movement! More than 2.6 million people in the United States are certified mental health first responders, and that number is growing every day.

You can contact Alyssa Bushkie at [email protected] to set up training for your organization or visit to register. Join the Y to help the youth of Berks County.

The mission of the Reading & Berks County YMCA is to put Judeo-Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy minds, spirit and bodies for all. For over 160 years, we have been the heart of the community we serve. The Y is a cause-driven organization for youth
development, for a healthy life and for social responsibility. Because a strong community can only be achieved when we invest in our children, our health and our neighbors. The Y is so much more.

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