Educators play a critical role in the lives of students. The effect they have on their students can be imperative to their development and overall health. Although standardized testing and growing curriculum are the most important things on the school district’s minds, mental health is what really matters most.

Mental health and suicide are serious issues in our society today. These issues affect many Americans across all age groups. Among adolescents, about half reported having a mental health condition. Students’ academic success within the classroom reflects their mental health and stability within their daily lives.

Students spend more time with their teachers than they do with their parents during the week. Although teachers and parents have very different relationships with these students, time plays a definite role. It is important for teachers to be able to recognize when and if their students are going through a crisis. With Mental Health First Aid training, teachers will be able to do so and know what resources to provide.

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course with a three-year certification. The action plan for Mental Health First Aid is to assess risk for suicide or harm, listen non-judgmentally, give reassurance and information, encourage appropriate professional help, and encourage self-help and other support strategies.

The primary focus of this program is not to name the problem or diagnose someone; it is to recognize when someone may be experiencing a crisis and how to provide assistance.

Currently, in Nebraska, there is no mandatory training for teachers on mental health. Students and teachers would benefit tremendously if this were mandatory in schools across Nebraska. Students will be happier and healthier and it will make teachers’ jobs a lot easier and rewarding.

Lacey Homolka, Kearney