Central Indiana Schools Participate in Mental Health Training

(INDIANAPOLIS) — A number of central Indiana school districts that approved the expansion of mental health services for the new school year are participating in training to help staff spot struggling students.

Franciscan Health is one of the agencies hosting what is called QPR — Question, Persuade, Refer — training to schools all around central Indiana.

The goal of the training is to make teachers more comfortable talking to kids about mental health so that struggling students can get the help they need.

“And it is teaching them how to ask the question, what to do when they answer the question and say, ‘Yes, I am thinking about taking my own life,’ and what do you do with that,” said Joann Turner with Franciscan Health.

The training also dispels some common myths surrounding mental health.

“Asking the question does not put it in their head. It actually decreases their anxiety because then they feel they have someone they can speak with,” said Turner.

Some parents who talked to News 8 said they are relieved to know this kind of mental health service will be offered in their kids’ schools.

“I feel like this is something that we used to hide behind these closed doors, and our kids need to know that there is not shame in that, when they need a little bit of help that that is actually OK,” said parent Annie Ferret.

Experts say the time of thinking that your child is immune from mental health struggles is over.

“It is everyone, and that is what is scary. The data is having to go down into like 10- and 11-year-olds because we have kids in elementary attempting suicide,” said Turner.

For kids, knowing that someone cares and that they have someone to talk to can make a lifesaving difference.

“Regardless of gender or age, if kids are encountering hard times to have a network of support around them,” said parent Tim Ferret.

“Mental health, we can no longer brush it under the rug. We have to address it because it is real,” said Turner.

Indiana now requires schools to offer at least two hours of mental health training for their staff members.

“We need to have the conversation. The topic needs to be addressed, and on an individual basis,” said parent Brenda Cockrel.

Turner said spotting the signs of struggle can come down to three simple things: “caring, compassionate, and just listen.”

Experts say major changes in behavior, anger or hopelessmess that may point toward a mental health struggle are a major change in behavior, anger, or hopelessness.

They say it’s important to not talk down to the person but let them know you care and want to help them.