ASCC-AHEC Hosts Youth Mental Health First Aid Workshop

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

Published on December 20, 2018

ASCC students, faculty and staff, along with members of many off-campus agencies and groups, took the time last week to participate in a Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Workshop.

Even though the regular Fall 2018 Semester has concluded, a number of American Samoa Community College (ASCC) students, faculty and staff, along with members of many off-campus agencies and groups, took the time last week to participate in a Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Workshop offered by the American Samoa Area Health Education Center (AHEC), a program hosted by ASCC.

The Youth Mental Health First Aid 3 Certification Course is an eight-hour public education program that introduces participants to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, builds understanding of the importance of early intervention, and teaches an individual how to help an adolescent who is in crisis or is experiencing a mental health challenge. The program uses role-playing and simulation to demonstrate how to address a mental health crisis, select interventions and provide initial help, and connect young people to profession, peer, social and self-help care. This exceptional course was taught by instructor Erica Davis, Associate Director of the Hawaii-Pacific Basin AHEC, who works from the organization’s regional headquarters in Honolulu.

“If I could, I would offer the Youth Mental Health First Aid Training to every single person on island,” said American Samoa AHEC Center Director Monica Afalava. “I believe the YMHFA has always been relevant to the Territory. There is a stigma here that mental illness does not exist, therefore it is either ignored or suppressed. While the training does not qualify an individual to diagnose or treat, it does provide the knowledge and skills that will enable them to identify and guide. With the two sessions of the training offered, American Samoa now has nearly 50 individuals who are able to assess for risk of suicide or harm, listen non-judgmentally, give reassurance and information, encourage appropriate professional help, and encourage self-help and other support strategies. We could be the difference in preventing a mental illness from developing and truly saving someone’s life.”

ASCC students, faculty and staff proved enthusiastic participants in the training, which also included representatives from the Department of Education, Department of Health, American Samoa Power Authority, Veterans Affairs, Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, American Samoa Alliance Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, Window of Hope Development, Empowering Pacific Island Communities, and Pacific Youth and Community. “I believe this training is useful for everyone,” reiterated Afalava, “because whether or not it's a part of your paid job, we all come into contact with youth in one way or another – whether they are our own children, relatives, youth at church, neighbors, or friends.”

Afalava explained that the monetary value of the YMHFA training is $75-$150 per person, not including costs to bring the instructor to the Territory and to host the training itself. However, the training at ASCC was provided at no cost to the participants as Hawai‘i/Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center has partnered with the Hawaii State Department of Education through the Project HI-AWARE SAMHSA grant, which provides Mental Health Awareness and Youth Mental Health First Aid Training to adults in the community, educators, and first responders to youth in crisis. The certification received by the participants is nationally recognized and valid for three years.

Workshop instructor Erica Davis is the Associate Director of the Hawaii-Pacific Basin AHEC Program Office that oversees nine centers, including American Samoa, where Afalava serves as the local Center Director. While on-island, in addition to leading two separate sections of the YMHFA Workshop, Davis also offered additional trainings for local AHEC scholars and the community, including an American Heart Association Heartsaver CPR/AED Adult, Child & Infant with Choking two-year certification course.

Davis came to the Hawaii Pacific Basin Area Health Education Center in 2016. She received her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education/Athletic Training from the University of South Carolina, and her Masters in Non-Profit Management and Leadership from Walden University. She is currently working towards her PhD in Public Policy and Administration. Davis is also certified as a Global Career Development Facilitator, Guardian Ad Litem, Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor and as a BLS CPR Instructor.

Anyone wishing to find out more about Youth Mental Health First Aid can contact the American Samoa AHEC office at 699-1587.