WEBSTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The same way employees train for CPR or other emergency certifications, there is also training for youth mental health first aid.

A recent partnership between the YMCA and the University of Rochester Medical Center is helping staff become more equipped to help the children they work with each day.

The Y’s partnership with URMC started in the spring to help camp leaders better accommodate the children they serve.

“COVID really changed the world for these kids, and camp has shown us what it means to support kids through this mental health crisis,” said Heather Hayes, camp director for YMCA Bay View.

Mental health issues in children and teens, specifically, have been brought to the forefront from the pandemic.

Dr. Allison Stiles with URMC says the first aid training is designed to help staff members understand a variety of situations, ranging from minor to more severe.

“A focus is on building the capacity of that staff. We talk about real-life scenarios coming up in camp. How do we address those? How do we solve those? It’s putting our heads together and applying the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in that training to be able to support each other,” said Dr. Stiles.

Camp Bay View alone has welcomed roughly 1,500 children this summer. For leaders like Hayes, she says the training enables children and staff to have the best experience possible.

“We don’t see these kids for nine months a year. We only see them for two months a year. So, it really stepped up the game for us on a behavior spectrum to be able to support them in a way they would get in the school year now in a camp setting,” said Hayes.

The training extends beyond the initial session. Counselors meet regularly with medical staff. URMC also works specifically in schools and other settings.

To learn more about the program or find a course in your area, visit Mental Health First Aid’s website.