Special Projects Fund

Project Title

Spreading Teen Mental Health First Aid in Chemung and Steuben Counties

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Special Projects Fund

Date Awarded

June 13, 2023


Finger Lakes


In Progress



Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people.

The pandemic exacerbated these challenges as youth faced instability of daily routines, educational loss, isolation from loved ones, fear, and trauma. In 2021, rates of depression and anxiety rose significantly; compared with 2019, emergency room visits for suicide attempts were 50% higher for adolescent girls and 4% higher for adolescent boys. Nearly two-thirds of teens in the United States who experience mental health challenges don’t seek help. Teens who do seek mental health services often face barriers or delays, particularly in areas with a shortage of mental health providers. Young people are also more likely to turn to their friends for support before approaching a parent, sibling, significant other, teacher, or online service. In 2023, NYHealth awarded The Institute for Human Services (IHS) a grant to provide teens, schools, and community partners in Chemung and Steuben counties with an evidence-based program that teaches high schoolers to identify, respond to, and get help for mental health and substance use challenges. 

Under this grant, IHS, through its Steuben Rural Health Network, will train high school students in a nationally recognized, evidence-based Teen Mental Health First Aid curriculum to prepare them to cope with mental health challenges and support their peers. IHS will conduct a pilot in two high schools in Steuben and Chemung counties, engaging students, teachers, and school staff in a community-based approach. Certified Teen Mental Health First Aid instructors from IHS and ProAction of Steuben & Yates will conduct trainings and workshops for students, staff, and community partners to become mental health “first aiders.” Each school will have a safety plan protocol to follow up immediately with any teen deemed to be at risk of suicide. IHS has identified more than 50 local partners positioned to ensure that wraparound services are available for students. IHS and schools will raise awareness about its 2-1-1 Teen Helpline, a hotline that assists with referrals to local services in a five-county area. In addition, it will use results from the pilot to plan a broader Teen Mental Health First Aid training effort and discuss the sustainability plan with rural health network partners, who will determine how to institutionalize the program across counties.