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BSA leaders get training in youth mental health
Lisa Scarbrough
Pack 295 Cubmaster Lisa Scarbrough (right) chats with the audience as Jasmine Davis prepares her presentation Saturday at St. John’s Lutheran Church. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
BSA training
A group of Boys Scouts of America leaders listen to Jasmine Davis discuss the mental challenges youth face during a training session at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Saturday. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — A group of Boys Scouts of America (BSA) leaders learned about a different kind of first-aid at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Saturday.

Thirty BSA leaders from Georgia and South Carolina participated in a training session conducted by Jasmine Davis of Mental Health America (MHA) of Georgia. She led a free eight-hour certification session that focused on how to help youths in crisis connect with appropriate professional, peer and self-help care.

MHA of Georgia is the state’s affiliate of National Mental Health America, the country’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization addressing all aspects of mental health and illness. 

 “This is something that we want in our program. This is something that we need,” Pack 295 Cubmaster Lisa Scarbrough said.

Scarbrough worked to land the training class for other BSA leaders after taking it last fall in Savannah. She learned about the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, irritability, lack of inhibition, hopelessness, oversensitivity to criticism and low self-esteem.

“I actually went because this is something I already see in our youth,” Scarbrough said. “We have a lot of youth that are on the spectrum. They have learning disabilities, so these are issues we are already facing now.

“As you take the training, you learn that a lot of these signs start showing at age 8.”

 Scarbrough said one of the instructors at the Savannah training she attended focused partly on a young girl in the local school system who committed suicide.  

She said, “It’s not as late as everybody thought so, if you can hit them early and give them the resources that are available, we can do a lot more prevention so that we don’t have these negative outcomes that just bring tragedy.  Everybody says, ‘Thoughts and prayers.’ Well, we are trying to beat the thoughts and prayers.

“We are about action.”

The St. John’s Lutheran Church session was MHA of Georgia’s first for BSA leaders.

“It is offered mostly to school systems,” Scarbrough said.

Twenty-year BSA veteran and former special education teacher Charles Pineo of Canton was glad he attended the event.

“I think this is something important,” he said. “We see it in our (Atlanta Area) council camps in the summer. In this last five years, we’ve had to respond to threats of person harm — suicide attempts at the youth level.

“This is something we have never seen before.”

Pineo pointed to the growing availability of information on television and the internet as a reason for the growing problem.

“What might have been kept quiet in the past is no longer kept quiet. It’s out there. Everyone is aware of it if they are alert to their surroundings,” he said. “They will be exposed to things that in the past they were never exposed to and some people will act on that. In the past, they might not have known these things were even going on. They were sheltered from it.

There is no shelter anymore and there are very few filters.”