News Releases » Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Pilots Teen Mental Health First Aid at Marina School

Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Pilots Teen Mental Health First Aid at Marina School


March 2, 2022


Marci McFadden, Chief of Communications & Engagement



Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Pilots
Teen Mental Health First Aid at Marina School

Program to roll out to other high schools in the district fall of 2023


Marina, CA - The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District is piloting a teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) program at Marina High School. Students have participated in one of three sessions to date, and will engage in a second session on March 3, 2022 from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. at Marina High School.


“Teen Mental Health First Aid is similar to CPR in physical first aid,” said Lorena Macias, Coordinator, Social Emotional Support, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. “It teaches students how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use among their peers. It explains when and how to involve a responsible adult and where to find appropriate resources and professional help. We know that youth are more comfortable reaching out to their friends for support. Through a series of videos, presentations, activities, and discussion, the intent is to provide students with the necessary skills needed to support one another through a mental health challenge or crisis.”


According to Mental Health America and National Alliance for Mental Health Illness:


  • 64.1 percent of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. (MHA)
  • 5.13% of youth report having a substance use or alcohol problem. (MHA)
  • 1 in 5 teens and young adults live with a mental health condition. (NAMI)


tYMHFA at MPUSD offers three 90-minute sessions that are appropriately leveled for students and focuses on how students can support their peers. Currently 11th graders at Marina High are participating in the program, and it will be expanded to to 10th and 12th graders at the school. If successful, the district anticipates rolling the program out districtwide to all 10th, 11th and 12th graders. 


The teen action plan, tailored off the adult program, includes Look, Ask, Listen, Help Your Friend” when they identify that their peer is in crisis, such as experiencing thoughts of suicide, threatening violence or harm to others, engaging in nonsuicidal self-injury, or experiencing a traumatic event like bullying, abuse or assault.


It is important to note that the course does not teach teens how to diagnose. “This program is designed to provide information and resources to be a supportive friend and encourage their friends to seek help, and knowing when it’s time to involve a responsible adult.


The Youth Mental Health First Aid program is not new to MPUSD and is training for adults. In 2017-2018, the district embraced the program to train teachers and staff who work directly with youth, the skills they need to reach out and provide initial support to students ages 6 - 18. More than 200 staff members have taken the six and a half hour virtual or eight hour in-person training and are confident in their ability to connect with students to help them with mental health or substance use problems.


“There is no question that we are in a youth mental health crisis nationally. The pandemic has intensified adolescent depression, anxiety and other mental health related concerns. As a district, we have worked hard to proactively respond to this crisis through providing direct mental health services, partnering with local organizations, such as Monterey County Behavioral Health, in providing Mental Health support and building capacity of our school community in understanding more about youth mental health,” said Donnie Everett, Assistant Superintendent, Student Support Services, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.


YMHFA covers common signs and symptoms of mental illness in students ages 6 - 18, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), common signs and symptoms of substance use, how to interact with a child or adolescent in crisis, how to connect the student with help. With the challenges of the global pandemic, the program has been expanded to cover trauma, addiction and self-care, as well as the impact that social media and bullying has on students.


Participants in the adult program learn how to apply an ALGEE action plan, which includes:


  • Assessing for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listening non judgmentally
  • Giving reassurance and information
  • Encouraging appropriate professional help
  • Encouraging self-help and other support strategies


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