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Your Healthy Family: Allen Park staff certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid

Allen Park is the first elementary school in Lee County School District to have all instructional staff certified.
Posted at 12:35 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 12:35:53-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Allen Park Elementary School is the first elementary school within the Lee County School District to have all instructional staff certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

"It's really important that we know how to address trauma, how to address self care for ourselves, and then know how to help our students," Allen Park's new Principal, Melissa Booth, said.

She said staff took the eight hour course on Friday.

"We're very proud to be the first elementary school in the district where all of our instructional staff are Youth Mental Health First Aid Certified," she said.

The course teaches school staff how to help children dealing with a mental health challenge or crisis. It prepares them to handle a variety of situations, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Reactions to traumatic events

"A lot of times people think it doesn't happen in elementary school, but it's very real for us as well," Booth said.

The idea of going back to school can cause anxiety for students.

"Even if your kid is excited about going back to school, it's OK and completely normal if all the sudden they start to feel anxiety," Jody Baumstein, a Licensed Therapist with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said.

Pew Research reports that anxiety about school is one of the top issues for students.

"And I don't just mean gun violence, but I mean every day something bad or negative could happen in a child's life," Brandy Baker, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Intuition Wellness, said.

Baker said from elementary students to high schoolers, anxiety can present differently.

"I think one of the tricky parts as a parent or teacher, or someone working with a child, is to recognize if what we are actually seeing is anxiety, because it comes out in behaviors," Baker said.

Some common signs for parents and teachers to look out for:

  • Frequent worrying about school
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches with no known medical cause
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Clinginess to caregivers
  • Changes in mood
  • Sweating, shaking or fast breathing when thinking about school
  • Not taking part in activities they normally enjoy