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Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES Hosts Mental-Health Training

Tips on recognizing children in a mental health crisis were part of the training.
Tips on recognizing children in a mental health crisis were part of the training. Photo Credit: Contributed

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Youth mental health first aid training was offered recently by Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in partnership with the Westchester County Department of Mental Health and Westchester Jewish Community Services at BOCES' Yorktown campus.

Training offered throughout the region was made possible in part by a $100,000 "Project Aware" grant from the federal government. The training, which is open to anyone in schools or the community who interacts with children, is aimed at making more people aware of the warning signs of mental health disorders in children and adolescents and how to respond to them.

“I think a lot of the warning signs are obvious but are often overlooked or mistaken for common adolescent behavior,” said Catherine Patak, a psychology intern at the Mental Health Association in Brewster.

Among other things, participants at the April 11 session, were told to pay attention to changes in mood, hygiene, sleep patterns, friends, social activities, alcohol or drug use. If a teen or child is withdrawing from friends and community, that can also be a sign that the child is in crisis. The course is not designed to turn participants into mental health professionals, but rather to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses in children and teens.

“It is worth eight hours of my time to help save the life of a young person. Any tools we can give people to help demystify and de-stigmatize mental health issues and create more openness is a plus,” said Dara Caputo, a licensed clinical social worker at St. Christopher’s Inc. who was one of the presenters.

Training will continue to be offered at various locations through 2016. Upcoming training sessions will be held at the Ossining Public Library May 2 and 9.

“As more people are trained to recognize these warning signs, our hope is that more students will get the help they need before a crisis occurs,” said Lynn Allen, assistant superintendent of Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES. “That is why Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES is committed to providing this education and why we are pleased to be partnering with Westchester County and Westchester Jewish Community Services.”

For more information or to register for one of the training sessions, contact Julie Klaber, Westchester Jewish Community Services Mental Health First Aid Coordinator at (914)-761-0600, ext. 116 or at jklaber@wjcs.com; or Debra Caputo, Project Aware coordinator, at debramcaputo@gmail.com.

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