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Support implementation of mental health trainings for schools and community members

What Is It?

Mental health and suicide prevention training was identified by community members as an action, that when combined with other actions in our community, that has a reasonable chance of making a difference in suicide rates in our community. This is an expansion of ongoing programs in our community.

The priority population for this program includes teachers and other school staff, faith leaders (inlcuding clergy and lay leaders), and other interested community members. These trainings aim to make a difference at the individual/interpersonal level, but will also involve policy changes and environmental changes in some settings. Implementation will take place in schools, churches, and community settings.

Evidence-based trainings, such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), and Mental Health First Aid have been shown to improve outcomes related to suicide death rates. Other trainings, including Reconnect for Resilience and DBT Skills have been shown to improve responses to stressful situations and better manage emotions to avoid crisis and improve overall wellbeing. Our community will seek to implement several of these trainings, as appropriate for various individuals based on their level of need and interest.



The partners for this program include:




Transylvania County Schools Missy Ellenburger Lead: youth mental health trainings
Blue Ridge Health Phil Latter Lead: DBT Skills in Schools trainings
Transylvania Public Health Tara Rybka Collaborate: all trainings
TC STRONG Rik Emaus Collaborate: all trainings
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd Kimberly Dunbar Lead: suicide prevention trainings
CARE Coalition Kristen Gentry Lead: faith-based resilience trainings
MELP Consortium Abby Glass Collaborate: faith-based trainings


Story Behind the Curve

The "Story Behind the Curve" helps us understand the causes and forces at that work that explain the data behind suicide intervention training and the resources that our community plans to commit to address this health issue.

What's Helping What We Do? These are the positive forces at work in our program that influence how much we do or how well we do it.

  • Strong community partnerships and variety of funding and support resources.

  • Community interest in participating.

  • Trained participants would recommend programs to others.

What's Hurting What We Do? These are the negative forces at work in our program that influence how much we do or how well we do it.

  • Capacity for implementation stretched thin; need dedicated personnel to focus on mental health programs

  • Challenging to recruit participation within faith community.

What's Helping Communities Served? These are the positive forces at work in our program that influence changes in skills, knowledge, attitudes, opinions, behavior, and/or circumstance.

  • Trained peers results in increased access to care and support, reducing demand on professional therapists and counselors.

  • Trained peers have fewer barriers such as cost and waiting lists.

What's Hurting Communities Served? These are the negative forces at work in our program that influence changes in skills, knowledge, attitudes, opinions, behavior, and/or circumstance.

  • Challenging to connect those who need help with trained peers in the community.

  • Trainings are just beginning, so only a few people have been trained so far.


What Works to Do Better?

The following actions have been identified by our community as ideas for what can work for this performance measure to make a difference on suicide mortality.

Actions and Approaches Identified by Our Community These are actions and approaches that we think can make a difference for this performance measure.

  • Plan to offer multiple options for suicide prevention and mental health training based on the needs of the person or their organization

  • Use existing resources from Healthy Communities and ongoing community work to support initial trainings.

  • Partner with TC STRONG and other community members to recruit interested community members and volunteers.

No-cost and Low-cost Ideas Identified by Our Community These are no-cost and low-cost actions and approaches that we think can make a difference for this performance measure.

  • Access training resources provided by VAYA Health.

  • Partner with government, schools, non-profits, and churches for training locations.

What Our Community Thinks Would Work To Do Better These are actions and approaches that our communities served think can make a difference for this performance measure.

  • Develop an overall plan for suicide prevention and mental health training rather than one-off options supported by various agencies.

  • Develop training recommendations for organizations to implement.

  • Develop a referral pathway to connect people who have mental health concerns or are in crisis with trained peers.

  • Curate additional funding resources to continue expansion.

  • Offer basic, age-appropriate mental health training to students in partnership with schools.

List of Questions/Research Agenda These are questions or research items to follow-up on for this performance measure. 

  • Need to conduct long-term follow-up after training to assess impact.


Progress Made in 2022

Several evidence-based suicide prevention trainings were held in 2022, designed to expand awareness of warning signs and build skills in responding appropriately. A total of 44 people were trained in ASIST in partnership with the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Transylvania Public Health, and other community partners. In addition, 29 school personnel and community members were trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid, offered by Vaya Health in partnership with Transylvania County Schools and TC STRONG.


Progress Made in 2023

Transylvania Public Health sponsored a workshop hosted by Soul Shop to develop a suicide training plan for county schools and the community-based agencies that support them.In late 2023, TC STRONG received a 3-year grant to support mental wellness for students and staff of "After 3" programs throughout the community; this support includes training such as YMHFA, teenMHFA, and resilience skills that has been shown to support suicide prevention.

TC STRONG staff were certified as trainers in Youth Mental Health First Aid, teen Mental Health First Aid, and the "Be There" social support curriculum. These staff offered 2 YMHFA courses in 2023 and trained a total of 23 individuals, including school personnel, those who work with youth in other settings (such as camps and after school programs), community members, and parents. They also trained a total of 21 students and staff in Be There, in partnership with Brevard College. Planning efforts are underway to offer teen MHFA in early 2023. TC STRONG is also working with the Transylvania County Library to regularly offer QPR for interested community members.

The TC STRONG collaborative was selected as 1 of 15 teams representing 24 counties statewide to participate in the "Our State, Our Wellbeing" inititative from UNC Chapel Hill. This 12-month program works to identify and implement strategies to improve mental health and reduce suicides, launched by Carolina Across 100 and the UNC Suicide Prevention Institute.

In addition, Transylvania Public Health worked with WNC Health Network to support a social media campaign that promoted normalization of seeking care for mental health concerns and provided information on how to find needed help. This campaign reached approximately 28,000 individuals and resulted in over 11,000 post engagements.



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