Sophomores learn mental health first aid for teens 


Jessica Moen ramps up the excitement for session four of Teen Mental Health First Aid during Advisory in her classroom.

Makenzi VerVaecke, Senior Reporter

Manitou Springs High School is offering a Teen Mental Health First Aid program for sophomores during Advisory. 

Jessica Moen, English teacher at MSHS, and Maggie Ellias, Social Worker at MSHS, went around to all of the sophomore Advisory classes to explain the program and get students signed up. “The district had made the decision when we started this program four years ago to focus on sophomores. It provides a certificate that’s good for a year,” Moen said.  “We are inviting kids of junior and senior year if they want to renew their certificate to engage in the training.”

Ellias has worked at the Manitou Springs Middle School and MSHS for four years, and she thinks that the program is very beneficial for students. “Teen Mental Health First Aid is set up so that students know how to help students since we know that students often go to their friends more than an adult or a trusted adult,” Ellias said. “We also talk about when it might be beyond what you can handle on your own.”

Students are excited to begin the program and hope to learn valuable ways to help their peers. “I think that this is super important for people to learn about. Not only to help themselves, but also to help people who are struggling around them,” Shaena Vigil (10) said. “I hope to learn better ways to comfort people and be better at being sympathetic”

The program focuses on different things throughout the eight Advisory sessions. “The program allows students to identify and be aware of what mental health is,” Ellias said. “We focus on what the difference is between a mental health issue and having a concern versus having a crisis and being able to distinguish between those.”

Although the program has been beneficial to students, the amount of kids signing up has been getting smaller. “We try to make the classes close to the size of an average advisory class. So we look to meet a target group of about 25 students,” Moen said. 

When the program was first introduced four years ago every sophomore had to participate. “The first year we did it, it was a pilot program. So we had to engage with 100% of the sophomores. So then I volunteered class time to do the program,” Moen said. 

Sophomore, Hunter Durfee, would recommend the class to others. “I would absolutely recommend the class to others because if more people are aware of mental health issues and the ways of counteracting them, we are better able to move past them and get the help that we need,” Durfee said.