Have you taken a first aid class or been trained in CPR? What about Mental Health Frist Aid? Mental Health First Aid is a course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. We were fortunate enough to attend the Mental Health First Aid Summit in LA on May 1st. We spent the day learning from our peers about the importance of mental health and how we can bring the MHFA program to every corner of the country and the world. It was quite fitting because May is Mental Health Awareness month.
During the Mental Health First Aid Summit we were able to attend a discussion around research showing that at any given point in time people can maintain around 15 close relationships in their lives. Stop for a second and think of the impact that we can have if at least one of those individuals is equipped with the skills to assist someone experiencing a mental health challenge. We all have the opportunity to #bethe1in15.
We were able to learn from panels of our peers who helped increase our knowledge of cultural awareness, funding, underserved populations, and other strategies to bring MHFA to the communities we serve. We were inspired by guest speakers like Chris and Martha Thomas from the Defensive Line. The Thomas family to create The Defensive Line to help build a world in which no young person of color dies by suicide. https://thedefensiveline.org/our-story/
Another takeaway from the Mental Health First Aid Summit that really made a connection was from Ashanti Branch, founder of Ever Forward, and the Million Mask Movement. Ashanti asked us all to think about how we work so hard to put on a mask and only show certain parts of ourselves while we ignore and hide certain qualities about ourselves and our lives that we don’t want others to see. The concept of the movement is how we all do this and what would happen if we all put the masks down for a moment and showed each other that behind the masks- we aren’t all that different. So, this Mental Health Awareness Month we encourage you each to think about 3 qualities about yourself you let people see and what are 3 qualities about yourself that you don’t usually let people see. And if you’re willing to be vulnerable, then join the movement at www.everforwardclub.org/millionmaskmovement.
When asked about her passion for Mental Health First Aid, Danielle Day said,
“Teaching Mental Health First Aid is one of my favorite roles as an extension educator and I’ve thought a lot about why that might be. I’ve realized it’s because it’s the practicality of the class and that it is teaching skills that benefit virtually anyone in any area of their life. I’ve found some of my favorite classes are those that feature participants from walks of life that aren’t sure they’ll ever use the skills they are learning in Mental Health First Aid, or are sure that they don’t know anyone experiencing or that has experienced a mental health challenge and then throughout the day I get to see the aha moment at some point or I get the email down the road sharing they used their action plan and it shows me just how impactful the work we are doing really is. This is why having the opportunity to participate in professional development around this specific training and gather with instructors from around the country was a wonderful experience this year.”
Kimberly Cavalier added, “Being an Extension Educator, we have a unique opportunity to reach every corner of every state we serve. With this opportunity comes a great responsibility. By becoming certified in Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid, we are able to be the one in 15 qualified to help those experiencing a mental health challenge. About 40% of adults suffer from a mental health challenge and 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Knowing these statistics, how can we not want to make a difference in the lives of those who need our help. If you have a physical health challenge, getting help is something we just do. We need to make getting mental health help just as acceptable. The more Mental Health First Aiders we have trained across the globe, the better chance that someone will be there when help is needed.”
If you have not taken MHFA we encourage you to take this class. There are so many options to become a Mental Health First Aider. There is a specific class for adults who work with children, so if you work with the 4-H program this is the class for you. If you work with adult learners there is a program for those who work with adults as well. While we don’t teach the teen version, there is one of those also. So many ways to learn about mental health. Iowa State university Extension and Outreach offers in person and virtual classes. If you want to become a Mental Health First Aider take the class https://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/MHFA. If you want to become a facilitator, https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/.
Danielle Day and Kimberly Cavalier