Ther Personal Growth and Counseling Center, a department within Health and Wellness Services at California State University Monterey Bay, was awarded a three-year grant through the CSU Student Mental Health Initiative to augment mental health promotion activities .Mental Health First Aid, funded by CAL-MHSA (Prop 63) is one of two programs implemented at CSUMB that is a result of this funding.

Mental Health First Aid, a highly interactive, 8-hour program, has been rigorously evaluated and is proven to reduce stigma connected to mental illness. This program can reduce the damaging effects of mental and emotional disorders such as job loss, school dropout, relationship issues, and drug and alochol problems. Participants of the training learn warning signs and risk factors for depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorders. Training includes a five-step action plan to help an individual in crisis connect to professional care.

Jessica Flores, MFT, a counselor at the Personal Growth and Counseling Center, implemented Mental Health First Aid at CSUMB in Summer 2013 and since then has conducted four campus trainings. Those in attendence included the POWER Peer Educator team, campus staff that directly interact with students, and members of student housing (which includes Residential Advisors). For more information on trainings scheduled in December 2013, please contact Jessica Flores.

Recently, Mental Health First Aid was recognized by the federal government as an intervention that may best meet a community's needs in their implementation. Press release follows.


Mental Health First Aid Added to Federal Registry of Evidence-based Programs

Washington DC (July 18, 2013)—The federal government this week added Mental Health First Aid to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a searchable database of mental health and substance abuse interventions to help the public find programs and practices that may best meet their needs and learn how to implement them in their communities. All interventions in the registry have been independently assessed and rated for quality of research and readiness for dissemination.

“The National Council and our partners — the states of Maryland and Missouri — brought Mental Health First Aid to the U.S. in 2008 because of the evidence supporting its effectiveness,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council). Mental Health First Aid USA was adapted from the original program created in Australia in 2001. The program is now in more than 20 countries and every state in the U.S.

“Inclusion in NREPP affirms what we hear every day from people with mental illnesses and addictions and those who want to help them — the program succeeds in elevating knowledge about mental illnesses, increasing comfort in talking to people in distress and crisis; and understanding that help is available and treatment is effective,” added Rosenberg, who reiterated that the National Council is committed to ongoing evaluation studies and continuous quality improvement for Mental Health First Aid.

Mental Health First Aid is an in-person training designed for anyone to learn about mental illnesses and addictions, including risk factors and warning signs. Similar to CPR, participants learn a 5-step action plan to help people who are developing a mental health problem or in crisis. It is a low-cost, high-impact program that emphasizes the concept of neighbors helping neighbors.

Studies have found that people trained in Mental Health First Aid reduce negative perceptions and attitudes about people with mental illness and addictions. Mental Health First Aiders have more confidence in helping others and a greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help. “People often don't seek care for their addictions and mental illnesses because they don’t know where to go or what to do. Mental Health First Aid gives them local resources and points them in the right direction,” Rosenberg explained.

Mental Health First Aid USA has been delivered to more than 100,000 Americans through a network of 3,500 instructors. The training is intended for people from all walks of life, including social and human services agency staff; law enforcement and corrections officers; nursing home staff; outreach workers; volunteers; school staff, counselors, and nurses; clergy and members of faith communities; employers and human resources professionals; and families.

Thousands of communities nationwide offer public Mental Health First Aid trainings. One notable community — Harford County, Maryland — has a community-wide effort to train social services, military, first response, transit, and school staff in Mental Health First Aid.

“Everyone on our team needs to be trained in Mental Health First Aid,” says Sharon Lipford, Deputy Director, Harford County Department of Community Services. “It’s a tool that should be available at every level of the community. No one should ever be embarrassed to ask for help. As a county, we are working to make sure that help is easy to find.”