By the time our students are 18-years-old, 1 in 5 of them will experience a mental health challenge. This means if you took our enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year, approximately 340 of our students will find themselves facing a mental health challenge. With the ever present goal of being a caring community as well our Portrait of a Panther focuses, the Knoxville Community School District recognizes the importance of supporting our students in their mental health journeys.
As a part of Mr. Spaur’s Health I class, students spend 3 class periods learning teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA). The curriculum is taught by our School Nurse, Angie Mitchell, and our Student Services Coordinator, Angela Nelson. Both are no strangers to the importance of mental health awareness. In a previous career Mrs. Mitchell worked as a nurse for 33 years and Mrs. Nelson has a background in human services specifically working with troubled youth.
The pair had to undergo comprehensive training to be qualified to teach the course. They are in the process of making sure all of our KCSD staff have been trained in mental health first aid as well. The curriculum was first developed in Australia and our students at KHS are some of the first in the United States to be taught the material.
Teen Mental Health First Aid is specifically geared towards teenages and how they can recognize and support friends and peers by being able to notice mental health and substance use challenges. tMHFS was created in response to research showing teens preferred their peers when it comes to sharing about their challenges.
By the 2021-2022 school year, all students in each sophomore class will receive this training as a part of their required Health I. The goal is to help our students become resilient by teaching them how to navigate their mental health as well as give them tools to help each other during hard times. Throughout their sessions with Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. Nelson students will learn what mental health challenges are, what is appropriate help, and how to help a friend in crisis.
Knoxville students recognize the importance of learning fMHFA.
“It can help stop the stigma of mental challenges and crisis. Also, I think it’s important for kids to know that they can recover from challenges and that they are resilient.” - Morgan McKay, 10th grade
At the end of each class, students are given an exit ticket to fill out which are read by Mrs. Nelson & Mrs. Mitchell. The pair follow up with students based on their responses. It allows our students to ask questions or bring up concerns in a safe and discreet way.
If you have a student who is currently in Health I, we encourage you to ask them about their experience. To learn more about Mental Health First aid, visit mhfa.org.