Non-profit spotlight: Mental Health First Aid training provides “CPR of mental health” for local leaders

Non-profit spotlight: Mental Health First Aid training provides “CPR of mental health” for local leaders

Two young people talking

With the month of May marking Mental Health Awareness Month, I Love the Burg is partnering with the Community Foundation Tampa Bay to highlight Mental Health First Aid. The ambitious and community-driven program was founded with the goal to train and empower 5,000 key personnel in nonprofits, faith communities and other community settings to identify, understand and respond to signs of addictions and mental illness within the next three years.

Mental Health First Aid is a remarkably experiential training that is similar to CPR training. The idea is to train individuals to recognize challenges and then react to them appropriately. It helps people identify, understand and respond to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge.

Training like this – which is free for those who work in nonprofit organizations, faith communities and educational settings, thanks to the Community Foundation Tampa Bay – has become even more important with the nation’s growing mental health crisis. Increasing awareness, reducing stigma, and supporting healthy responses is a key in helping individuals and communities recover together.

CFTB offers solutions for mental health crisis

Even before the pandemic and social unrest of 2020, statistics showed that mental illness was a serious issue in our community and all communities. Pre-2020 research shows that 1-in-6 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness within a given year. A study released by the CDC in August 2020 found that 40 percent of U.S. adults (2 in every 5) were struggling with at least one serious mental health issue during the pandemic.

Those experiencing mental health conditions can be further impacted by stigma, which is caused by fear and a lack of understanding. It can lead to harassment, bullying, violence and discrimination, which can cause isolation, shame, and prevention of treatment for those experiencing mental illness.

Mental Health First Aid is part of a nationally certified training program designed to combat the effects of mental health issues by providing viable skills to address mental health challenges; raising awareness of the prevalence of mental health issues in the community; and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. The Mental Health First Aid initiative was launched by the Community Foundation Tampa Bay in partnership with Love IV Lawrence, St. Petersburg College, Humana, and the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute.

Mental Health First Aid provides direct, applicable training

Thinking of Mental Health First Aid as the CPR of mental health, peer-reviewed studies show that individuals trained in the program come away with skills helping them to become more supportive, effective and inclusive leaders. Those who are certified have been proven to grow their knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions.

Chief among the training is the ability to identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with a mental illness or addiction, while gaining an increase in their confidence and likelihood to help an individual in distress.

While training is free for those who work in nonprofit organizations, faith communities and educational settings, the training is also available to individuals and business for $125 per person. Mental Health First Aid certification is roughly an 8-hour training course. In the virtual training, participants complete a self-paced introduction to the material that takes about two hours. The real-time online instruction, with between 10 and 30 people in the course, takes five to six hours in one day.

In a continuing act of encouraging mental health awareness, Community Foundation Tampa Bay awarded the St. Pete Arts Alliance a grant last week for the Murals in Mind project. Learn more about the Community Foundation Tampa Bay and their work at cftampabay.org.

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