Sophomores to #BeTheDifference through teen Mental Health First Aid


tMHFA Program

The tMHFA program teaches teens skills to use with friends and peers.

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 18, sophomores will participate in the national teen Mental Health First Aid training brought to Canyon High School by the National Council for Behavioral Health and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation

Canyon High School will be on assembly bell schedule to provide the extra time needed to complete the lessons. Students will be in groups of approximately 100 and will rotate through six 45 minute sessions to complete the training, and students will receive a certificate of completion along with a manual to take home. 

“The sophomore class will be divided into three groups,” Principal Jennifer Boren said. “One will be doing six weeks of Teen Mental Health First Aid lessons, one will be hearing some guest speakers along the same topics, and one will be doing some different lessons.”

A group of counselors, known as the Portable Seven Girls, have received special training, are certified by Mental Health First Aid USA at the National Council for Behavioral Health and will serve as instructors for the course.

“In each classroom, there will be a Canyon High School teacher and one of the Portable Seven Girls, the district’s family advocates,” Boren said. “The Portable Seven Girls are very well prepared and great presenters. There will be six weeks of lessons to complete the curriculum, and there will be a graduation in the seventh week.”

We are trying to create awareness and equip students with simple strategies.

— Jennifer Boren, principal

This program is not being implemented because of any issues at Canyon High School, but rather to provide students with skills to act when concerned about a classmate. 

“A lot of research tells us that when a student is struggling, they often go to a friend,” Boren said. “We aren’t trying to make sophomores therapists and counselors. We are trying to create awareness and equip students with simple strategies to be helpful if they notice a friend is struggling, and most importantly, help them get to a trusted adult.”

Sophomore Jenna Cates said she is excited for the program and thinks it will be beneficial for the school.

“Suicide has become a bigger problem,” Cates said. “It is really important that they’re bringing awareness into bigger schools. High school is stressful, and being in high school I think it’ll help us a lot.”

Canyon High School was one of 200 schools that applied for the program, but only 35 were chosen.

“I first heard about the program last spring,” Boren said. “The Portable Seven Girls came to me. They had heard about this and had seen amazing results. I was really excited when I saw it included steps to be helpful when you notice someone you love is struggling.”

I think students are going to feel empowered to help their friends, and be able to reach out to the right places if they need to.

— Kylie Howell, theater arts teacher

The Portable Seven team, along with others in the district, gathered data, formed plans and worked together endlessly to apply Canyon High School for the program.

“It’s a contract; it’s a commitment for us to uphold,” Boren said. “I had to write a letter stating why I would be interested in having the program here at Canyon High and vow my support. Paperwork, recommendation letters, data and commitments. It was a lengthy paperwork process.”

Teachers completed a day of training with Mental Health First Aid prior to the beginning of school. Theater arts teacher Kylie Howell took the training during the summer.

“I think it’s going to eliminate some helplessness,” Howell said. “I think students are going to feel empowered to help their friends and be able to reach out to the right places if they need to. The general idea of what it means is to be a good friend and the relationship building it’s supposed to teach. It sounds like it’s going to be a really good thing for our campus.”

Boren said she hopes students will have an optimistic outlook of the program, rather than seeing it as another task put on their shoulders. 

“I hope they’ll go into it with open ears and open minds,” Boren said. “They should expect engaging lessons. I’ve sat through some of the lessons, and I think they’ll be interested. I’m hoping they’ll expect to hear practical common sense that can be helpful to them in their relationships with friends, family members, and everybody else. I’m hoping this results in Canyon High School being a safer place.”