By Kendall Rimmer
My Brothers Keeper Tulsa (MBK-Tulsa) is dedicated to supporting boys and young men of color (BYMOC) from cradle to career and to ensuring their access to opportunity and safety. To effectively fulfill this mission, MBK set out to gain a deep understanding of their needs by engaging in focus group sessions with black and brown boys from across Tulsa. The feedback of BYMOC revealed an enhanced need for support with addressing their mental health challenges and encountering a shortage of available resources to address these pressing issues.
According to Mental Health First Aid, one in five youth will experience a mental health challenge at some point. More than 17 million youth under 18 have or have had a psychiatric disorder – more than the number of children with cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. And 7.4% of children in the United States have a mental health visit in a given year.
With that in mind, MBK-Tulsa set out to develop strategies that provide long-standing support for youth and young adult mental health. Through deep analysis, an understanding was formed that students are under or over-diagnosed with mental health issues. These diagnoses come from a good place, however, it is important to know exactly what struggles are being experienced. That way the correct supports can be put in place.
In August 2023, MBK-Tulsa and The Opportunity Project hosted two Youth Mental Health First Aid training sessions (YMHFT). These sessions were designed to equip youth-serving organizations, parents, and community members with the knowledge and skills to support young adults, whether they are facing a crisis or dealing with non-crisis mental health challenges. Dwayne Mason and Kara Harding, certified mental health first aid instructors, worked together to deliver this training. It drew participation from more than 50 individuals representing 12 different organizations in Tulsa, all eager to enhance their ability to identify and assist students grappling with mental health issues.
Participants went through an eight-hour training that discussed various mental health issues in grave detail. Some of the topics discussed included anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders with psychosis potential, disruptive behavior disorders, and eating disorders. Also, the training helped provide the participants with tips for identifying and finding resources to address these different struggles.
The participants showed strong engagement throughout the training and expressed their appreciation for it. Many of them have already started to strategically consider how they can effectively apply some of the concepts they learned during the training.
“I knew it existed but really didn’t always know how to identify the symptoms. I thought I was capable of facilitating a crisis but now I have more confidence,” said Adam Vanderburg after attending one of the YMHFT sessions. “I work with youth daily so now I feel more ready to help them when they are in need.” Adam works with both Bike Club Tulsa and Humble Sons Bike Company here in Tulsa. He is in contact with roughly 500 plus youths yearly.
From the training, participants found the “ALGEE” concept extremely useful. ALGEE stands for Assist, Listen, Give, Encourage, and Encourage. “This will help our youth and team when a youth comes in having a crisis or if they are showing signs of a mental health issue, we can listen and give appropriate resources to help them navigate the situation,” said Hannah Gagosian who works with Youth Services of Tulsa.
In the future, MBK-Tulsa and The Opportunity Project plan to keep offering these training sessions to those who interact with our youth and young adults the most. Stay tuned for updates on when and where these trainings will be held.
MBK-Tulsa and The Opportunity Project plan to continue to provide these trainings to those who have the most contact with our youth and young adults. We will ensure to keep the community updated and when and where those will take place.