Mental health first aid training

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Empowering individuals to be a part of the solution

Recently the Behavioral Health Workforce Center (BHWC) began offering Mental Health First Aid training to employees as part of its mission to bring attention to and end the stigma of mental health and substance use challenges. This training teaches people how to identify, understand and respond when someone is experiencing these types of challenges and is facilitated by three Mental Health First Aid Certified Instructors from the BHWC: Dr. Taylor Blakeley, Training and Training Assistant Program Coordinator; Kyle Fontaine, Education and Training Program Coordinator; and Joshua Laughhunn, Pathways Program Coordinator.

With six training dates available from March to July, the day-long sessions offer a comprehensive learning experience. Participants are required to complete two hours of pre-work, followed by an 8-hour in-person session, a post-exam and an evaluation to become certified Mental Health First Aiders.

Emily Snow works as a health care administrator in the Department of Psychiatry. While she signed up to take the course to help her understand her work in the department better, she found the course was also personally beneficial. “The course provided me with tools to use in my career at SIU Medicine as well as in my personal life. It’s helped me become a better advocate and recognize the signs and symptoms of someone who might need help,” said Snow.

mental health first aid classBecause this training provides an action plan along with the necessary tools and skills to address a challenge, the knowledge and skills participants gain can be used just about anywhere. Likewise, everyone benefits as it helps to alleviate the fear and hesitation around mental health and substance use conversations, playing a crucial role in removing stigma and fostering supportive environments for mental well-being. 

The goal is to eventually take this training out into the community, working with local and state governments to see where it’s most needed, Dr. Blakeley noted.

“We hope to close the gap with the behavioral health workforce shortage by helping build more interest in behavioral and mental health and showing people how they can help someone experiencing a crisis."

As the BHWC works to address the behavioral health workforce shortage across Illinois, this training provides an opportunity for all types of people to take a step toward becoming part of the solution.

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