Maple Grove United Methodist Church leaders want folks who spend time with young people to act as "first responders" when it comes to mental health.

As part of an initiative to focus on mental health and addiction in the community, the church, 7 W. Henderson Road, will be host to a Youth Mental Health First Aid class from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25.

The class, sponsored by Mental Health America of Franklin County and the Alcohol Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, is free and open to the public.

Space is limited and registration is required at mhafc.org.

Designed for parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers and other caring residents, the class provides information and resources to individuals who work with or encounter young people, said Maureen Traverse, education manager for the mental-health board.

"Fundamentally, the training is practical skills to address mental health in young people -- when something doesn't seem right, what to do about it," Traverse said. "Kids can't necessarily advocate for themselves. It could take a caring adult to recognize some things and say and do something."

Mental Health First Aid is a national program, Traverse said, the need for which is fueled by an increasing understanding that people don't always think about mental health the way they do physical health.

"It shares aspects of traditional physical first aid. It's geared for the general public; it's not training to be a counselor in the same way physical first aid isn't training to be an EMT or nurse," Traverse said.

"It's providing that first level of support and response."

The course, Traverse said, shows how to recognize the signs of mental-health struggles in teens and provides productive ways to intervene, as well as education about the available resources in the community for a young person who needs help.

"Kids who have somebody in their lives who can do these things have a better chance to have positive outcomes," Traverse said.

That's exactly why the church is hosting the training, Maple Grove member Marialice Bennett said.

"So many people feel helpless when they feel like someone is having mental-health issues," she said, "so here are some tools to recognize what you're seeing and steps you can take."

The board offers recurring mental-health first-aid classes for youth and adults, Traverse said.

Information on future classes is available at mhafc.org.

"As adults, we can write off the problems of young people at times," she said, "and while not everything is a crisis, there are ways we can learn to understand what is and is not what we would consider normal teen behavior."

Bennett called the church's focus on overall well-being of individuals in the community "a big step for us."

"When we look at ways as a church to support all individuals, one of those ways is to look at mental health through a different lens as a society than we have been," she said. "Making people feel loved and bringing hope to people -- that's the role of the church."

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