The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2015 “Now is the Time” Project AWARE-Community (Short Title: NITT-AWARE-C) grants. The purpose of this program is to support the training of teachers and a broad array of actors who interact with youth through their programs at the community level, including parents, law enforcement, faith-based leaders, and other adults, in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) or Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). Implementation of the NITT-AWARE-C program is expected to increase the mental health literacy among youth-serving adults, policy-makers, and administrators of programs serving youth.
Just over 20 percent of children, either currently or at some point in their life, will experience had a serious mental disorder. Seventy percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20 percent live with a severe mental illness. As more people, and particularly youth, experience mental distress, there is a need for increased mental health literacy and basic mental health training for the public. At times, mental health services are not provided to youth who need them. The reasons include the failure to recognize problems, fear of negative attitudes and discrimination, and lack of resources (Cowell, 2013). Adolescents are particularly dependent on adults for recognition of mental health problems, provision of adequate support, and referrals to help (Jorm, Kitchener, and Sawyer, 2010). Developing the appropriate social support system has been shown to reduce the risk of developing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders (Jorm, et.al, 2010).
In January 2013, the President put forward a plan – “Now is the Time” – which combined executive actions and calls for legislative action that would, among other things, increase access to mental health services. The “Now is the Time” plan can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/preventing-gun-violence.
The NITT-AWARE-C program is expanding the MHFA and YMHFA training to achieve a wider community impact by training a more diverse group of adults who, in turn, will reach a broader spectrum of adolescents or transition-aged youth within the communities. For the purpose of this RFA, adolescents refer to youth 12 to 18 years of age, and transition-aged youth refers to youth 16 to 24 years of age. By training an increased number of adults to be MHFA or YMHFA First Aiders, a community can move toward wide-scale knowledge of behavioral health issues that affect youth and become more effective in addressing behavioral health issues affecting adolescents or transition-aged youth. The implementation of MHFA or YMHFA is most impactful when the training is integrated with a coordinated community-wide plan, which addresses strategic and system-wide change that will improve youth outcomes.