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Teaching adults how to spot the warning signs of depression in children in Santa Barbara County

Teachers, Parents Train in Youth Mental Health First Aid in Santa Barbara County
Teachers, Parents Train in Youth Mental Health First Aid in Santa Barbara County

Since the pandemic started, experts have warned of a mental health crisis facing American children.

That is now playing out at schools across the nation - and in Santa Barbara County - in the form of increased childhood depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, fights and thoughts of suicide, says Michèle Pouget-Drum, Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor.

"The pandemic has certainly affected the mental health of our youth, due to isolation and lack of socialization and some youth being home and not always in the best situation and unable to escape domestic violence or other stressors," Pouget-Drum told KCLU.

“May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this is an area where we need greater awareness.

"Adults need to know that they have an important role to play in helping a young person struggling with a mental health concern or substance use," she said.

The free, virtual training teaches adults how to spot warning signs of mental health risks and substance abuse in children, and how to prevent a tragedy.

In the past three years, over 1,600 Santa Barbara County parents, mental health providers, educators, and counselors have been trained.

YMHFA teach participants the skills to interact with a youth experiencing a mental health crisis. Mental Health First Aiders learn a five-step action plan that guides them through the process of reaching out and helping the youth connect to appropriate support.

More than 2.5 million people nationwide are certified mental health “first aiders,” and that number is growing every day. In the next five years, FSA, MWC and Youthwell expect to train and additional 2,800 adults.

“The pandemic has dramatically increased depression and anxiety in youth,” said Megan McClintock, Director of School Based Counseling Services for Family Service Agency (FSA). “Our organization is certainly seeing more referrals for treatment as well as an increase in severity.”

There are two upcoming virtual YMHFA trainings during Mental Health Awareness Month on May 5 and May 21. The May 21st class will focus on camp counselors and other youth programs. In-person trainings resume in June. The course is free to Santa Barbara County residents. To register, visit or call (805) 884-8440.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 7 Golden Mike Awards, 4 Los Angeles Press Club Awards and 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.