The tragedy in Connecticut has reminded us all about how important mental health and mental health treatment is to ensure that we have a society that functions in a way that we’d all like.  To be truly effective, a behavioral and mental health system needs to make sure parents, teachers, doctors and emergency department staff, firefighters and first responders, law enforcement, and correctional staff just to name a few, are able to identify when there might be a problem and what to do to get help.  One of the evidence-based tools that can really help is called Mental Health First Aid.  

Mental Health First Aid is a novel, evidence-based public education program designed to teach people a five-step process to assess a situation, select and implement appropriate interventions and help a person in crisis or who may be developing the signs and symptoms of mental illness. The groundbreaking training equips people to provide initial help until appropriate professional, peer or family support can be engaged. Participants also learn about risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses such as anxiety, depression, psychosis and addiction. 

Mental Health First Aid is an interactive 12-hour course that presents an overview of mental illness and substance use disorders.  It introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and overviews common treatments. Those who take the 12-hour course are certified as Mental Health First Aiders.  At the end, they have the skills, resources and knowledge to help an individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional, peer, social, and self-help care. 

After the tragic shootings in Tucson in 2011, our behavioral health team including Stephanie Uetrecht, Ali de la Trinidad, Cielo Mohapatra, Anne Rock, Kathy Bashor, Claudia Sloan, Bob Sorce  and Dr. Laura Nelson coordinated with our Regional Behavioral Health Authorities and Providers to put together a series of Mental Health First Aid courses across the State to build Arizona’s awareness infrastructure.  Throughout 2011, the teams certified nearly 100 Trainers, who in turn have trained thousands of community members over the course of this year.

As a result, Arizona has among the most robust number of instructors in Mental Health First Aid in the country.  If you or your team want to get involved and certified as a Mental Health First Aider can visit the Mental Health First Aid website and even find an instructor in your community.  Simply go to the website above, put in your city and zip code, along with the diameter in miles that you want to search- and you can find the Trainers we trained in 2011 that can help bring your team up to speed.