Beginning January 28th, Empowerment Systems will hold a series of Mental Health First Aid classes at the Apache Junction Multi-Generational Center through a partnership with Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens.

The first series of classes will be Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (and Other Older Adults Helping Raise Kids). This introductory session will be from 8:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m., covering topics from Mental Health First Aid Can Help You; Drugs, Alcohol and Mental Health Issues Affecting Your Grandchildren; and Grandparents’ Rights and Other Legal Issues. This free session is open for anyone who fits that criteria and wants to learn more. For more information, visit or contact Empowerment Systems at 480-367-6937.

Mental health is a growing concern in Pinal County and across the country. To give you an insight into some statistics, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) reports that more than 20% of Arizonans ages 18-25 reported having a mental illness and only 10.4% were seeking treatment (2019 Arizona Health Assessment).

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that twenty-five states reported a 30% increase in suicide attempts in 2016, and 68 adults completed suicide in Pinal County. We say “completed” vs. “committed” as there is a negative stigma to the word “committed.” One commits a crime, but doesn’t commit an end to their life!

As a society, we often only see the issue and not the person experiencing the issue. The 68 people who ended their life equate to a 68% increase since 2006 in our county.

Across the country, we’ve seen a large increase in school-aged children attempting and completing suicide. The ADHS reports that 36.4% of high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row within the past twelve months. This feeling causes a loss in productivity and has begun to impact their daily life and can eventually lead to substance abuse disorder or even a suicide attempt.

If we begin to talk about the drug issue our society faces, we can highlight something very recent in our country that, in our opinion, is long overdue. January 1st, the federal government implemented into law a tobacco sales ban on anyone under the age of 21. While marijuana is not legally sold here, ADHS reports 8.1% of 8th graders, 27% of 10th graders and 23.3% of 12th graders report using marijuana in the past 12 months. 67.4% of students obtained marijuana from friends. 7.1% of high school-aged students report that they currently smoke cigarettes, and 5.3% report use of electronic vapes or E-cigarettes.

So, what do we do? How does Empowerment Systems fit into a solution? Over the next several months, you will see more Mental Health First Aid classes being taught all over Pinal County. We’ve forged partnerships in both Pinal and Maricopa Counties and are ready to roll out our solution. Together, with Mental Health First Aid training, we can equip our community with the knowledge they need to help shed light on the growing epidemic.

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