DORAL, FL – Miami-Dade bus drivers are being trained in mental health in a new course offered by the county called ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid.’
The purpose of this training is to provide tools so bus drivers can recognize signs of mental distress in children they might’ve missed before.
They learn about a variety of factors which can cause kids to be depressed, anxiety-ridden, or verbally disruptive.
While bus drivers are being trained in mental health, they “are off the road and in classes instead, learning how to spot the signs of a child in crisis as opposed to one who is just misbehaving,” reported NBC 6.
But classes go beyond that and also approach sensitive, and yet important issues, such as schizophrenia, bullying, abuse or economic stress at home.
“Are they having a bad day or is this behavior escalating concern that maybe they do need some sort of mental health support?” said Sally Alayon, the assistant superintendent for mental health services to NBC 6.
It is important to clarify that by learning this skills, bus drivers are not only learning to spot signs of mental distress but are also working in preventing worst scenarios, such as suicide or attacks on other students or faculty.
“You want to get to the why, why are they experiencing these issues, why are they acting out like this, and then you can establish some services early and get them the support that they need,” Alayon said.
And would this bring a great impact on kids? According to the report made by NBC 6, the answer is yes, because children can be listened by the first people they encounter in the day.
“Knowing this type of training is good because it gives us a positive impact on how to deal with different situations and different kids and not being so quick to judge and think that their reactions are just being misbehaved, they have a serious problem,” said veteran driver Adrienn Smith to the media.
Another bus driver, Frank James, has a similar opinion. “You handle them totally different, you wouldn’t think that they’re just a problem child, you realize they’re having a situation that they can’t handle themselves so you can help them to handle it.”
This initiative is part of the services the state of Florida is now implementing regarding mental health ever since the Parkland shooting occurred. The state wants every adult who deals with children to be able to help students who are distressed.