Lady Gaga rapping with some teens
Lady Gaga with students from teen Mental Health First Aid program (Photo Credit: Shadille Epstan)

Lady Gaga’s Foundation Expands Teen Mental Health Pilot Program

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(CelebrityAccess) — Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and the National Council for Behavioral Health announced plans to expand their pilot program teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) to 20 additional high schools around the country this fall.

The new peer-to-peer program is aimed at helping young people to provide social and emotional support to their peers in times of personal crisis.

The program includes in-person training for high school students in grades 10 to 12 to learn about mental illnesses, including how to identify and respond to a developing mental health or substance use problem among their peers. Similar to CPR training, students learn a 5-step action plan designed to help them render to help their friends, reducing the incidence of crises such as suicide.

“It’s not really ‘normal’ to talk about mental health with people. Being able to help everyone know about mental health and the real struggles that everyone is experiencing is important,” said Drew Voris, a recent graduate of Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Mo., one of the students who nationally completed the pilot program. “Nobody says, ‘I can’t go to the party because I had a panic attack.’ They’ll make up an excuse. To be able to openly talk about being on antidepressants or dealing with anxiety, to have that awareness and to have that normal talk about mental health is really important.”

Half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 and three-quarters by the mid-20s. Left unaddressed, mental health issues can lead to serious consequences for a young person’s well-being, including increased risk of dropping out of school or experiencing homelessness. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds.

Run by the National Council for Behavioral Health and supported by Born This Way Foundation, teen Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based response to the mental health challenges encountered by one in five American teens.

“Teen Mental Health First Aid is a logical next step in the Mental Health First Aid program,” said Betsy Schwartz, vice president for public education and strategic initiatives at the National Council for Behavioral Health. “It’s so important that teens have the skills to help each other in the language that they use every day – that is the power of peer-to-peer intervention. This innovative new program will help us reach more young people in need as we break down misconceptions about mental illness and grow our family of 1.7 million Mental Health First Aiders.”

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