The incident at Franklin Regional High School is an instance of unexplainable violence that has shaken our community. Our hearts go out to the victims, families and friends of those involved in and affected by these recent events. This act of violence and desperation highlights the need for all members of our community to be more aware of when someone may be having a difficult time or experiencing a crisis situation.
Given the prevalence of mental illness in our country, first-level engagement can no longer be the sole domain of mental health professionals. A proven training that addresses this important need is Mental Health First Aid. The youth version of this program teaches people how to support a young person who may be developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or is experiencing an emotional crisis. It trains non-mental health professionals to identify an individual’s needs, provide initial help and connect people to professional and other care.
MHFA does not teach people to diagnose mental illnesses, nor how to provide any therapy or counseling. It empowers people to be more aware of possible subtle clues that someone may not be doing well or is having other problems. It increases a person’s awareness, sensitivity, compassion and confidence in asking someone how they are doing, which is often the first step in connecting someone to needed community services and supports.
Our entire community has been touched by a traumatic event. If more people had a basic level of training to increase awareness and engage those who may be in need of support or are experiencing a crisis — both youth and adults — together we may be able to reduce the chances of future events like that which occurred in Murrysville.
BRANDI M. PHILLIPS
Chief Executive Officer
Allegheny HealthChoices Inc.