Training is now being offered in the Lynden School District

LYNDEN ­—  The Lynden School District has launched a new initiative directed at students’ mental health. The Youth Mental Health First Aid program aims to identify students who are struggling and connect them with resources they need. 

One of the school counselors in the district attended a mental health training event a few years ago and thought this was something that could be brought to Lynden. 

Carla Willis, Family Community Services coordinator for the district, said a few more employees decided to attend a training in Bellingham.

“We were impressed by how accessible the content is,” Willis said. “Any adult can be trained to be helpful to a struggling young person. Whether you are a professional or a volunteer working with youth, a parent, grandparent [or] neighbor, you can learn to recognize the signs and respond to distress in young people.”

Willis said 10 school district employees became trained last summer to teach the class on mental health first aid. 

District assistant superintendent David Vander Yacht said one of the goals is to drop the stigma that comes with mental health.

“Our interest is in the emotions and ideations of young people, not the label,” VanderYacht said. 

Willis said the training addresses stigma specifically and teaches people how to discuss multiple mental health-related topics with young people. 

The district’s goal is to have 100 staff members, parents and volunteers trained in youth mental health first aid. As of Jan. 24, Willis said, 44 people have been trained.

“We recognize that young people today face a variety of challenges, such as social media pressures, that make navigating adolescence particularly challenging,” Willis said. “Youth Mental Health First Aid training is unique in that it is specifically about youth mental health and how all adults can be helpful and supportive.”

The school district has offered parenting classes and informational nights on youth-related topics in the past. Willis said the mental health initiative is about coming together as a community to support young people in an additional way. 

The Lynden School District will be offering free training to staff, parents and community members throughout the remainder of the school year. The next training session will be on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Lynden Middle School, starting at 8:30 a.m.