Mental health first aid training, February 2019.
Mental health first aid training, February 2019.

Behavioral Health Department Offers Mental Health First Aid Training

Author: Behavioral Health Department
Date: 2/21/2019 8:52:40 AM

County employees build skills to help in the moment when someone experiences mental illness.


The Behavioral Health Department has partnered with the Learning and Development Center to offer County employees certification in the premier public education program designed to help communities understand mental illnesses, seek timely intervention, and save lives: mental health first aid.

“The main goal is to help the average person, even a bystander, understand how to help someone who’s having initial symptoms of mental illness or even a crisis,” said Cassandra Ueberrhein, behavioral health clinician and mental health first aid trainer. “You learn how to help in the moment until help arrives—just like CPR.”

Mental health first aid teaches participants to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The one-day, eight-hour training gives participants the skills needed to reach out and provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care. 

“The idea of mental health first aid is to increase empathy and mental health literacy,” said Alysia Hendry, suicide prevention coordinator with the Behavioral Health Department and a mental health first aid trainer. “It’s also about reducing stigma. We often fear what we don’t understand.”

The mental health first aid approach and training were developed in Australia in 2001 and have since been adapted for use in 25 countries. Each course takes into account relevant cultural factors. Trainers may also adapt courses specifically to the needs of different age groups or professions. For example, Ueberrhein said she recently led a training for Cal Poly residential living staff and soon observed staff more readily connecting students with mental health resources.

The first class for County employees brought together participants from the Departments of Social Services, Parks & Recreation, Libraries, and the Clark-Recorder in early February. The next training for County employees is coming up on March 25. Departments may also request a training specifically for their teams. Behavioral Health staff are working with other departments and with community partners on plans to offer the training more widely in the community.

“The more people we train, the more conversations we can have without marginalizing people, the more people can access the resources that are available,” said Hendry.

The one-day training focuses on practical skills and doesn’t require any additional background in health or mental health. It relieves participants of the myth that “there’s nothing we can do” for people experiencing mental illness or substance abuse.

Ueberrhein said the biggest takeaway for many participants is an understanding that they can make a difference.

“You have a lot of power to be of help,” she said.

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid: visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

To sign up for the mental health first aid course for County employees, visit http://bit.ly/sloco-march25, enter course ID 00114785, and use your County email address to register. Remember to get your supervisor’s approval before signing up. You will receive confirmation when your registration is complete.

To organize a specific training for your team, contact Alysia Hendry by email or at 805-781-1357.