Infographic & Training: Mental Health First Aid for Back-to-School

One in five students has a mental health challenge. Adults can learn how to spot the signs through an 8-hour mental health first aid course.


The #BeTheDifference campaign by the National Council for Behavioral Health and the Missouri Department of Mental Health is sharing information with schools on the mental health and substance use challenges youth face and helping to get front line youth support trained in mental health first aid.

The Be the Difference Blog, infographics and other tools are designed to help those trained in mental health first aid to support youth experiencing these challenges. According to the campaign, one in five youth aged 13-18 will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.

That means that in a classroom of 25 students, five will have a mental illness.

When it comes to mental health, these teens may not identify their challenge nor ask an adult for help directly. They may not feel comfortable initiating a conversation about it with an adult, either. Parents, teachers, coaches and caregivers can start a conversation that can help someone get on the path to recovery. -- if they can spot the following signs in youth behavior:

  1. They stop showing interest in activities they once enjoyed, and they don’t replace their interests with new hobbies. Action: Changing interests are a normal part of teen behavior, but you may want to check in with a teen who loses interest in their favorite activities without pursuing other interests.
  2. Their grades are slipping, particularly in classes they enjoy. While many things can affect a teen’s academic performance, a sudden change in behavior can be a warning sign for depression.
  3. They avoid discussing future events, such as further education or other opportunities. This could be a sign of depression and may signal suicidal ideation. Action: Check in with a teen displaying this behavior and reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) if you are worried that the person may be considering suicide.
  4. They withdraw from friends, family and social activity. Withdrawing somewhat from family members to spend more time with friends can be considered average teenage behavior, but if a teen is withdrawing from all social situations, it could be a warning sign for a mental health issue like depression or anxiety.
  5. They avoid eating meals, especially in a social setting. A sudden increase or decrease in appetite could be a sign of a mental health issue like depression. But complete avoidance of eating meals, especially around other people, may signal a developing eating disorder.

Download and share the infographic on 5 Way Teens Ask for Help:


Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. The training helps parents, teachers, coaches and other youth workers identify, understand and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses. Law enforcement agencies can also be trained.

According to Kansas Public School District #500 Officer Orlando Singleton, “It’s been such an effective tool...Now we’re so much more aware of what the kids are going through.”

Search for a mental health first aid course near you on

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.