In an attempt to help people who face mental health challenges, a group of mayors in San Mateo County are launching a new program, Mental Health First Aid Training, to enable residents to help others who might be experiencing a mental health crisis, San Mateo County Health and the San Mateo County Mayors Mental Health Initiative announced on Thursday.
The mental health first aid training is an eight-hour course that teaches volunteers how to help adults and youth who are developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis. The course is taught by trained, certified instructors and will be offered throughout the year.
Mental health conditions are one of the most common health issues worldwide, the county said in the statement. The program is particularly important now due to the mental health challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has triggered a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression, according to the World Health Organization. In December, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a special advisory noting an urgent need to address the nation's youth mental health crisis.
In 2021, more than one in three high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than four in 10 said they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in March.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has provided $200,000 to help pay for the mental health first aid training as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts. Funding comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which helps communities overcome challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The San Mateo County Mayors Mental Health Initiative includes the cities of Atherton, Belmont, Brisbane, Daly City, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Pacifica, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, and South San Francisco. Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale and San Carlos Mayor Sara McDowell brought together mayors from the 16 cities.
"Every mayor we spoke with not only shared a personal story, but they also noted a great need in their community for mental health resources and outreach," McDowell said.
Hale added: "The mayors recognize that our county's mental health challenges cut across race, gender, ethnic and economic differences, and these issues cannot be addressed by one city alone."
In addition to the mental health first aid training, the county and cities plan to support proclamations to raise awareness about Mental Health Month. Public buildings will be lit in green, the national color for mental health, and the cities will have events to help raise awareness, highlight resources and start conversations about mental health. San Mateo County Health is also sponsoring a series of events and activities, according to the announcement.
More information on the cities' Mental Health Month proclamations, community training, and other events that are free and open to the public can be found at smcmentalhealthmonth.org.