Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Training to help serve young people with mental health problems

Published October 15, 2015

SMYRNA—The archdiocesan Disabilities Ministry, in partnership with the Georgia State Center for Leadership in Disability, is offering Youth Mental Health First Aid USA training in response to the increasing episodes of violence associated with mental illness.

The one-day training will be offered on Thursday, Dec. 10, and Monday, Dec. 14, at the Chancery, 2401 Lake Park Drive, SE, Smyrna, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. Lunch will be provided.

Representatives from each deanery, including priests, deacons, youth directors and high school personnel, are encouraged to attend. The training is being offered free of charge, and sessions are limited to 30 participants.

Youth Mental Health First Aid USA is an eight-hour 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 individuals how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge. Mental Health First Aid uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect young people to professional, peer, social, and self – help care.

Given the enormous pressure that teens are under today, this program is invaluable, said Maggie Rousseau, director of Disabilities Ministries at the Atlanta Archdiocese.

She said, “My hope is that we can get one priest, deacon, youth minister and religious education director from each deanery … That way we cover the archdiocese geographically.”

This is an opportunity for school staff, youth ministers and others to live their faith and share it, as called for by the 2015 Pastoral Plan, said Rousseau. The program is being offered in English only but is appropriate for all cultures.  Once trained, those individuals can go back to their parishes, schools, college campuses and train others, including families, she said.

The course teaches participants the risk factors and warning signs of a variety of mental health challenges common among adolescents, including anxiety, depression, psychosis, eating disorders, AD/HD, disruptive behavior disorders, and substance use disorder. Participants do not learn to diagnose, nor how to provide any therapy or counseling – rather, participants learn to support a youth developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis by applying a core five-step action plan. The Youth Mental Health First Aid USA curriculum is primarily focused on information participants can use to help adolescents and transition-age youth, ages 12-18.

Choose from one of two sessions: Thursday, Dec. 10, or Monday, Dec. 14. Sign-up for Dec. 10 at : Sign-up for Dec. 14 at:

For additional information, contact Maggie Rousseau at