Staff attend mental health workshop

Hailey Doherty, a behavior technician, and Rebecca Fraley, the elementary school special education teacher, engage in a roll play exercise. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Shelley Seslar of the North Central Education Service District presents information about Youth Mental Health First Aid to Waterville School staff members Jan. 25. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

Waterville School staff members had the chance to become better equipped in addressing student mental health concerns during an all-day?Youth Mental Health First Aid?workshop held at the school on Jan. 25.

The workshop presenter was Shelley Seslar, managing director for Student Support Services at the North Central Educational Service District (NCESD). Seslar was assisted by Bernadette Crawford, certified prevention professional for Grant Integrated Services of Moses Lake.

The group spent the morning learning about signs and symptoms of mental health problems in adolescents. They also were given action plans for how to respond to struggling students. The group then spent the afternoon engaging in roll?playing to help address particular situations in ways that psychological research has found to be the most productive.

One of the?scenarios involved asking a partner if he or she was considering suicide.

Seslar encouraged the group to practice this with each other as it can be a very difficult, but lifesaving, question.

She gave the group instructions for follow-up depending on the person?s answer, including not leaving the person alone if he or she is suicidal.

The group also discussed a range of other mental health and substance abuse issues.

Each participant went home with?the book ?Mental Health First Aid USA: For Adults Assisting Young People.? The book has chapters discussing many common mental health and substance abuse disorders and how adults can help youth who are struggling with them.

Hailey Doherty, a behavior technician in the elementary special education classroom, said that the workshop was very helpful for her. Doherty?thought it was useful to hear about?specific disorders in detail and get strategies that can be used every day.?She said that the roll play exercises were particularly helpful and she is excited to be able to bring the book home as a reference.

?All the stuff is so common. When we don?t know how to handle it correctly, we?re not doing the best we can for each kid,? Doherty said.

Elementary Special Education teacher Rebecca Fraley?found it was helpful for her to learn to identify mental health disorders so she can help students to get them addressed early on.

Fraley finds a lot of students lack coping skills and suffer from anxiety and depression. The workshop helped her learn how to build resiliency in students.

The workshop was organized by school counselor Jill Moomaw and was paid for through a Project Aware grant from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

?Schools in more rural settings sometimes don?t have access to trainings that are geared to mental health,? Moomaw said.

She jumped at the chance to provide this opportunity to Waterville School staff members.