(NEW YORK) — As federal data shows a rising mental health crisis among teens in the United States, one high school has decided to take a different approach to helping students.

Officials at Alta-Aurelia High School, a public high school in Alta, Iowa, created teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA), a program that not only helps teens create an action plan for coping with their mental health, but also teaches students to help each other.

The program is the brainchild of Belinda Shea, school counselor at Alta-Aurelia High, which serves around 200 students.

“The teen mental health program is designed to help teens respond appropriately to their peers,” Shea told ” Good Morning America.” “I think it gives them a way to talk about mental health, hopefully take away some of that stigma that we hear or that we know about mental health.”

The first step in the program is helping students identify the challenges they’re experiencing, and then identifying the tools they already have at their disposal to help.

Mason Peck, a graduating senior at Alta-Aurelia, said tMHFA made a huge difference in his life.

“Doing the Mental Health First Aid program, we were thinking about negative thoughts, positive thoughts and how much, how often you’ll tell yourself a negative thought,” Peck told “GMA.” “I notice myself worrying less about uncertainty in my life.”

Lily Schulenberg, a sophomore, said the program has made her more confident in talking about mental health.

“During the class, we were told, ‘If you see something, say something,"” she said. “The one that really stuck out to me is ‘It’s OK to not be OK."”

The high school’s focus on mental health comes amid concerning data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding teens’ mental health.

According to data released by the agency in April, the number of high school female students seriously considering suicide jumped from 24% in 2019 to 30% in 2021.

The percentage of those who made a suicide plan increased from 19.9% to 23.6% in that same time frame. There was also an increase in suicide attempts, from 11% to 13.3%, according to the CDC.

In 2021, a report from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy also warned of a growing mental health crisis among young people. The report, issued during the coronavirus pandemic, cited statistics including a 51% increase in emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls and a doubling of anxiety and depression symptoms reported across genders.

At the same time, the nation is also experiencing a crisis of care, with a record number of kids in need of mental health care crashing up against a lack of access to care.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that when it comes to child and adolescent psychiatrists — medical doctors who are able to prescribe medicine — there are just over 10,000 currently practicing in the U.S., at an average ratio of 14 per 100,000 children.

Shea said at Alta-Aurelia High, the mental health program has helped not only the student body, but families too.

“I think that parents are definitely happy that we’re discussing some of these things and we’re having these open conversations,” Shea said. “A huge part of this program is not only examining or discovering some of the mental health challenges that we have, but talking so very much about the supports that are available and how people can feel better when they experience some of these challenges.”

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