Over the next two days, all 145 safety and security officers in the Rochester City School District will get special training in mental health first aid for students.
The training will be provided by Delphi Rise, formerly known as the Drug and Alcohol Council.
Project coordinator Margi Taber says a critical part of the program is encouraging adults to be mindful in their interactions with students and to ask questions when the student seems withdrawn or acts out.
Taber says when young people display what she calls “big behaviors”, it's a signal that their basic needs aren't being met.
"Teens don't present in a way where they come to us and say, 'Wow, I'm feeling depressed. I really think I need a therapist or someone to talk to.' It's really more like fishing, where we're throwing line out there and reeling it in to see what we can get."
Taber says once a student opens up about what's bothering them, they can be referred to a counselor or a trusted teacher or coach.
"The idea is that the more we can offer youth caring adults they feel they can trust and turn to, the better off that's going to be in helping the youth to thrive," she said.
In the 2014-15 school year, more than 50 percent of Rochester students in grades 9 through 12 who responded to a survey said they did not feel their life mattered in their community. Fourteen percent reported seriously considering suicide.
The RCSD youth mental health first aid training will be supported by a grant from the nonprofit Finger Lakes Performing Provider System.
FLPPS has committed to funding up to $500,000 to support similar programs throughout the Rochester-Finger Lakes region. Taber says training has already taken place in Seneca and Wyoming counties.