On July 19th, The NAN Project kicked off its first Senior Peer Mentor Training Camp, a 6-week course for those who have already taken our initial Peer Mentor Training, and want to expand their skills to better help others. Over six classes, our team will learn new information about mental health, practice suicide prevention skills, pick up some art therapy techniques and get a peer mentor training refresher before heading back out to schools in the fall.
Each week begins with a morning lesson of Botvin LifeSkills, taught by Mike Hall and Maria Ruggiero. Unlike many of the health and life courses aimed at young adults, Botvin builds the fundamental skills needed to navigate that stormy time of transition into adulthood. The LifeSkills curriculum covers everything from effective communications, to decision making and personal finances. Many thanks to Mike and Maria for taking time from their busy schedules in the field of substance abuse prevention at the Lowell Health Department and the Tewksbury Police Department.
We also participated in the half-day SafeTALK training, which is designed to bring intervention skills to those with no formal education in suicide prevention. Though our PMs have all been trained in QPR suicide prevention, SafeTalk allowed us to take a fresh perspective and brush up on our technique. With the guidance of our trainer, Tracy Jones from CrossPoint Clinical Services, our team gained useful skills that will strengthen our responses to those in crisis.
Next up, our team dove into Youth Mental Health First Aid training, a more detailed and in-depth explanation of how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Through 3 afternoons of lectures, group discussion, and role play exercises, our PMs learned a lot and gave context to their lived experience. This training was led by Eliot’s own Donna Kausek, the Eliot Mobile Crisis Intervention Program Director, Sarah Stewart, a Clinical Director at Rayne Academy JJ Division, and Cathy O’Leary, the Service Director at the DCF Division.
For the final two Thursday afternoons, Alex Norby, an Art Therapist at Raw Art Works in Lynn, led us in art therapy activities. After four weeks of intense, but valuable mental health and suicide prevention training, our team really appreciated the opportunity to check back in with ourselves, practice mindfulness exercises, and get expressive. Alex led us in meditation, creating self care boxes, and a collaborative art project. Even those of us who don’t usually use art as part of our self care learned a lot!
The NAN Project would like to give a big collective “Thank you!” to the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation for the grant that made all of this possible, to all of our trainers who were patient and informative, and to all of our amazing Peer Mentors for being so engaged and dedicated in their work. We look forward to seeing how these separate trainings will be adapted to better support students in the classrooms!