UCF Police host ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid’ course for local first responders, educators

ORLANDO, Fla. — First responders and school staff in Central Florida are learning how to better help young people they encounter who might be facing a mental health crisis.

The unique training now run by the University of Central Florida Police Department teaches the trainees how to match critical warning signs with the right resources.

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Nearly two-dozen teachers, administrators and first responders gathered on UCF’s Downtown Campus for the training.

Course instructor and UCFPD Corporal Luis Rivera says their goal is to help make sure they can all work together in an emergency.

“We want to make sure that we all are on the same page in helping each out her out, especially the students that are struggling with mental health,” Rivera said.

Funded by a federal grant, and run by UCFPD, “Youth mental health First Aid” works to teach those who interact with kids to understand behaviors that point to mental health struggles.

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“We’re not doctors, but we are here to teach them, give them ideas on behaviors and what they’re connected with, and give them resources,” Rivera said. “That’s our whole point is to give people resources.”

Rivera worked in the mental health field before joining the force seven years ago. He brings an insight the trainees say they hope to be able to share at their own jobs.

“I’ll be able to help the other teachers at my school, point out things to them, or if they have questions about their students, or they want to know something, I can see those things in their students and let them know that way,” Orange County teacher Jamia Weaver said of her experience in the program. “We can all work together at our school and help our kids. That’s what we’re here for.”

All the program attendees leave with a five-step plan to help connect individuals with support resources.

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UCFPD says it plans to host the class several more times this year.

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