Mental Health First Aid courses offered

Pecan Valley Centers works to improve mental health literacy



Poor mental health can be crippling. Anxiety, depression, trauma, thoughts of suicide or self-harm… Mental illness comes in many forms. It does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, races and socio-economic standing, and luckily there are places out there (much like who might be able to help or even be an ear to talk to for those who are struggling with mental health.

An estimated one in five Americans has a diagnosable mental illness. You’re more likely to encounter an American with mental illness – more than 40 million adults per year – than someone having a heart attack. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated about 735,000 adults suffered heart attacks in 2014.

Anyone can find themselves faced with someone suffering a mental crisis, and there’s a good chance that those individuals aren’t a mental health professional.

But Pecan Valley Centers for Behavioral and Developmental HealthCare (PVC) is committed to training local educators, police officers, clergy and other community members by helping them identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness, according to Hallie Baird, PVC community relations coordinator.

“Mental Health First Aid really gives individuals the skills they need to identify and provide assistance to someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis,” Baird said, adding the program is not intended to teach community members how to diagnosis or treat sufferers.

The idea is to make Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) as prevalent as CPR is for saving lives while at the same time improving “mental health literacy”.

MHFA is an 8-hour course available with modules available for adults and youth.

“We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid to our community,” Baird said “This important educational effort goes a lot further than emergency intervention; it really helps people understand the shroud of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and addiction. It will help rid this community of the associated stigma and move more and more people toward recovery.”

Growing numbers

One in five adults suffer some form of mental illness in any given year. According to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 2014 an estimated 43.6 million adults in the United States – 18.1 percent of all individuals 18 years old or older – were afflicted by mental illness. Those estimates don’t include substance abuse disorders.

Statistics are equally alarming relating to children. More than 20 percent – one in five children – currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder, according to NIMH.

A recent American Association Suicidology study documented an average of one person in about every 12 minutes and one young person in less than every two hours commits suicide.

About Mental Health First Aid

Risk factors. Warning signs. Understanding. Implementing strategies. Finding help. MHFA helps the public identify, understand and respond to individuals exhibiting signs of mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. The program also provides a five-step action plan to assess a situation and provide help; addresses the impact of mental health and substance use disorders; and provides information on local resource available to offer assistance.

Attendees learn about depression and mood disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma, psychosis and substance abuse disorders.

They are given an action plan, represented by the pneumonic ALGEE, which includes assessing the risk of suicide or harm, listening nonjudgmentally, giving reassurance and information, encouraging appropriate professional help and encouraging self-help and support strategies.

The curriculum is unique because it is aimed at audiences outside of the mental health profession, according to It seeks to aid in reducing social distance, increasing help-seeking and helping behaviors and providing strategies to assist an individual in crisis.

The course is being offered at no cost school district employee, including teachers, librarians, cafeteria workers, educational aides, administrators, diagnosticians, counselors, school nurses and interns or trainees. It’s also available to the general public for $65 per person.

The three-year certification program also offers CEU (continuing education unit) credits for qualified attendees.

MHFA originated in 2001 in Australia under the direction of founders Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm. To date, it has been replicated in twenty other countries worldwide, including Hong Kong, Scotland, England, Canada, Finland and Singapore.

Classes are available bi-monthly, on the second and third Wednesday of the month, and by appointment in certain circumstances. The course is taught at various locations across the PVC service area, including Stephenville, Granbury, Cleburne, Weatherford and Mineral Wells.

For more information or to participate in a MHFA training, visit or call Hallie Baird at (817) 579-4435.

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