It is estimated that one in four adolescents are significantly impacted by a mental health disorder, and that Latinx youth are at elevated risk while also facing disparities in access to quality care.
This paper evaluates a partnership between a university and the Catholic K-12 schools in the region. Seventy percent of the students served by the schools identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino. Eleven percent received Title 1 resources indicating high economic need. The SAHMHSA-funded project allowed the university to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to school personnel (n=246). The goal of the partnership was to assist the schools, which serve 8943 students, in how to 1) Recognize the signs of mental health disorders including serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance, (2) Implement strategies to safely and appropriately de-escalate crisis situations, and (3) Facilitate referrals.
This paper helps to address a gap in service and research gap by evaluating the effectiveness of university partnership to strengthen the knowledge and confidence of school personnel serving Latinx youth.
MHFA is designed to improve participants' knowledge, and modify their attitudes and perceptions, about mental health and related issues, including how to respond to individuals who are experiencing one or more acute mental health crises or are in the early stages of one or more chronic mental health problems
Data were collected using a pre- and post-test design to evaluate training effectiveness. The 15-item Mental Health Opinions Quiz, which measures attitudes and knowledge, was administered as an assessment of knowledge. In addition, the Youth Pre- and Post-Training Assessment was administered. This measure consisted of 7 items extracted from the Youth MHFA Course Evaluation Form and served as a measure of confidence in the implementation of MHFA. Questionnaires were administered to faculty and staff. The measure of confidence included questions from the practical application section of the YMHFA course evaluation form (n = 114); whereas, the Youth Mental Health Opinions Quiz was used as a measure of attitudes (n = 204).
Statistically significant improvements were observed among knowledge scores: The average total score increased from 7.65 (out of 15) pre-training to 10.17 post-training, t(192) = 13.727, p<.001. Confidence scores also increased from 24.51 (out of 35) pre-training to 31.16 post-training, t(112) = 13.957, p <.001. Immediately following training, participants reported increased knowledge and confidence in using acquired skills.
Results suggest that the YMHFA training may prepare such professionals with the appropriate tools to engage and assist young persons who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
The project resulted in a change in knowledge and confidence within the school system and significantly shifted their ability to intervene with youth.
Results suggest that in the area of mental health university-community partnerships can be an effective way of increasing access to services within the community. Additionally, partnerships have the potential to add resources to vulnerable populations within the community and may positively address concerns about diversity, equity, and inclusion among under-represented populations.