APA and Y-USA help Y staff identify warning signs of depression in youth

APA has partnered with the YMCA to educate its staff about depression and other mental health problems in young people to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and to increase access to care.

Following the tragic school shootings in Newtown, Conn., the White House invited APA and other nonprofit organizations to engage in a conversation about violence prevention and mental health. As part of this National Dialogue on Mental Health, APA has partnered with the YMCA of the USA to develop educational tools and resources that will help Y staff identify symptoms of depression and other mental health problems in young people and refer them to appropriate resources. This initiative was launched on June 27 with a webinar for Y staff entitled, “How to Tell When a Kid is Struggling Emotionally.”

This project will help raise awareness about mental health among 18,000 full-time Y staff and 49,000 summer employees who serve approximately 9 million children a year through Y programs. The YMCA of the USA and APA have partnered since 2008 to educate communities across the United States about healthy lifestyles and behaviors.  

The Y and APA hope that the project to educate Y staff about warning signs of emotional distress, depression, anxiety and trauma will help youths find help and decrease the stigma of mental illness.  

“Ensuring the safety of youth in our care is the Y’s No. 1 priority,” Y-USA President and CEO Neil Nicoll told viewers during the webinar. “The best way staff can help kids in emotional distress is to recognize the signs and symptoms and to know what to do and who to alert or engage when those issues are identified.”  Y staff members were also provided with information about APA’s psychologist locator service and the referral services of state psychological associations.  

Recognizing the signs of emotional distress in children is critical, APA President and CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, said during the webinar. “Research shows that early diagnosis and appropriate treatment for children and their families can make a difference in the lives of kids struggling with an emotional problem or a mental health disorder,” he said. “But before that, the most crucial phase is picking up those signs and symptoms of emotional distress or detecting that something may be wrong.” 

The webinar will remain available to Y staff on the Y intranet. 

This initiative is an extension of APA’s work with the Y through APA’s Mind Body Health public education campaign. Through this partnership, psychologists around the country work with local Ys to educate the public about health behaviors, stress and managing chronic illnesses. APA members interested in engaging in the education campaign can email APA staff.