A new effort is being made to help New Jersey students struggling with mental health issues.

During a visit to Maple Shade High School on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that increasing rates of suicidal thoughts, attempts and deaths for young people across the country.

“Even for students who are not facing a crisis in their mental health, issues like anxiety, isolation, loneliness and depression are becoming more and more common," Murphy said.

In response, Murphy said the Department of Human Services in partnership with the National Council of Behavioral Health will launch statewide Mental Health First Aid training opportunities for school officials.

Every school district will be able to send at least one staff member to an intensive training program to become a certified mental health first aid instructor.

He noted those certified through the program will be equipped to teach others about how to recognize students in need, and how to help them.

“Our hope is that through this effort more students with emerging mental health or substance use issues will be identified and referred for the appropriate supports," Murphy said.

Murphy also said the Department of Education will launch a statewide youth mental health working group made up of school practitioners, mental health providers, state agencies and advocates.

“This working group will create a roadmap for school districts to access the mental health needs of their students, and identify the supports needed for students to be health and successful," Murphy said.

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Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said 1 in 5 young people experience a mental health challenge at some point, including depression, trauma and anxiety disorders, and these conditions can lead to serious problems if left untreated.

“We need to create environments where it’s the norm that young people struggling feel comfortable asking for help," she said.

Murphy said $6 million in funding for the First Aid training is supported by $100 million in opioid funding through the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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