Graduate Students Seek to Strengthen Mental Health Training in Rural Schools
Third-year graduate students Ashley Coburn (left) and Breanna King (right) are on their way to becoming licensed psychologists. Before they earn their doctorates, they’re taking a deeper look into a topic affecting youth across the country — mental health.
A grant from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is helping Coburn and King take action. Competing with 200 other applicants, Coburn and King won a $5,000 grant to support their research project that will improve mental health first aid training and outcomes in rural mountain west towns.
They both had prior experience interacting with high school students, which gave them access to the Colorado Department of Education Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training. YMHFA is an eight-hour course that introduces participants to the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in adolescents and emphasizes the importance of early intervention.
Over a two-year period, Coburn and King will identify trainers already certified in YMHFA, have them implement the training in rural schools with students 12 to 18 years old in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. They will then conduct pre- and post-surveys and focus groups to see if the school personnel found it useful or if changes need to be made.
“The idea is to determine if the training that is already established is as effective in these rural areas or does it need to be modified in some way to better suit those schools,” Coburn said. They will release results from their research in 2024.