Rick Smith, Chief of Police
1 Union St.
Wakefield, MA 01880
For Immediate Release
Monday, May 12, 2014
Contact: John Guilfoil
Wakefield Police Department’s School Resource Officer Teaches “Youth Mental Health First Aid”
Officer Kelly Tobyne Helps Others Understand Warning Signs, Risk Factors for Mental Health and Behavioral Disorders
The Wakefield Police Department recognizes the need to educate its members, and others who interact with children and adolescents, on the risk factors and symptoms of mental health problems in young people. That is why Officer Kelly Tobyne teaches an intensive, 8-hour course that focuses specifically on young people.
The program, called Youth Mental Health First Aid, focuses on kids, teens, and young adults aged 12-25 and was rolled out early last year, modeled on the highly successful adult Mental Health First Aid program.
Youth Mental Health First Aid creates a dialog around the signs and symptoms of mental illness, the prevalence of mental health disorders, treatments available and their effectiveness, and techniques on how to engage troubled young people and encourage them to take part in services and treatment.
“Mental well-being plays directly into the mission if the Wakefield Police Department. Our job is to improve the quality of life for everyone in town, and young people should not be afraid, stigmatized, or confused about what is happening to them,” Chief Rick Smith said. “I applaud the work of Officer Tobyne and the efforts of Youth Mental Health First Aid.”
Officer Tobyne is the the WPD School Resource Officer, so she understands the importance of this topic and sees its effects every day.
“Mental Health First Aid is like any other kind of first aid. We recognize the symptoms and treat the patient in a caring, compassionate manner,” Officer Tobyne said. “There should not be a stigma associated with mental healthcare, and I hope that the children and adolescents we work with will benefit from this excellent, timely program.”
After completing a 40-hour program, Officer Tobyne became certified to teach the program to others. In the classroom, Officer Tobyne teaches participants the risk factors and warning signed of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescence including anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, AD/HD, disruptive behavior disorders and substance use disorder. Participants learn a core five step action plan to support an adolescent developing signed and symptoms of mental illness or in an emotional crisis.
So far, Officer Tobyne has taught the program three times to a total of 52 professionals since February, and more classes are being organized.
The program was developed by three partner agencies that manage the Mental Health First Aid USA: The National Council for Behavioral Health, the Missouri Department of Mental Health, and Maryland Department of Mental Health & Hygiene.
“Similar to CPR, lives can be saved if more Americans know the warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents and understand the importance of early intervention,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council, in a press release last year, announcing the program. Youth Mental Health First Air launched last January, about a month after the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. At the time, Rosenberg noted that after tragedies like Sandy Hook, people ask themselves what they could have done. No one knows what, if anything, could have changed the course of events, but public education can only be helpful. “We, of course, understand that no amount of training can guarantee horrific acts won’t occur, but being comfortable with openly talking about mental illness and engaging young adults, and their families, can increase the likelihood we may be able to help and intervene early,” she said.
Youth workers who may be interested in attending or setting up a class with Officer Tobyne should call her at 781-245-1212 x7273.