ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The University of Central Florida Police Department held a training session Monday designed to help identify and support young people facing mental health challenges.
Educators, first responders and others who interact with youth took part in the “Youth Mental Health First Aid” course at UCF Downtown.
Cpl. Luis Rivera worked as a technician in mental health before joining law enforcement and was the instructor for Monday’s training.
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“We are teaching these mentors so they understand signs and symptoms of certain behaviors and where do we guide them next,” Rivera said.
The eight-hour course was made possible through a federal grant and came after mental health challenges spiked during the pandemic.
“Especially now after COVID and everything that’s going on in the world, I think we need more people to help out and see signs and symptoms that people are going through when they’re struggling and try to help them out,” Rivera said.
Rachel Ickes, who is a teacher at Orange County’s Academic Center for Excellence, joined several other instructors in the class.
“We have to recognize those signs to kind of figure out when and how we can best support them,” Ickes said. “I’m hoping to just gain a lot more knowledge about what to look for in students.”
The training focused on youth who are at-risk for juvenile justice involvement, those who have experienced emotional disturbances or have symptoms of a mental health disorder.
Instructors said the attendees would leave with an understanding of various mental health issues and a five-step plan for connecting individuals with resources for support.
“We’re not here to diagnose anybody. We’re here to give resources. If you start seeing some of those signs and symptoms they’re going through, then you might want to give some resources,” Rivera said. “We want to make sure that we’re one of the first steps on how to help somebody, because we may be the only mentor that’s in that student’s life.”
UCF Police officials said similar mental health courses are typically held three to four times per year.
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