Welcome to Minnesota's Newest Mental Health First Aid Instructors

5/15/18 by Thomas Nguyen

Thousands of Minnesotans are faced with mental health concerns for the first time each year – personally, professionally, or both. Many feel ill-equipped to respond and don’t know where to turn for help. That’s where Mental Health First Aid brings knowledge, resources, and hope to communities. Thanks to leadership and support from the Department of Human Services, Wilder hosted an extensive training that welcomed twenty-eight social service professionals as Minnesota’s newest Mental Health First Aid instructors.

What Is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid is a training program created in 2008 by the National Council on Behavioral Health in response to the need for accessible, introductory information on responding to mental health concerns.

Over the course of an eight-hour training day, participants learn about risk factors and warning signs, symptoms of common mental health conditions, how to respond to someone in crisis, and ways to connect people in need to professional, peer, and social supports.

Above all, the series focuses on supporting community members to address mental health confidently. Participants often include social service professionals, educators, faith community leaders, law enforcement officials, and concerned community members.

Who Are Our Instructors?

Through the leadership and financial support of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Wilder hosted an instructor certification for both Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid during the first two weeks of March. Ultimately, after oral presentations and written exams, twenty-eight community members from across the state were certified in the Youth series, and fifteen of those were dually certified for both Youth and Adult.

We know that mental health is seen and spoken about differently across cultures – whether racial, ethnic, geographic, or generational. Under DHS’ financial support and leadership, this training was targeted to reach cultural and ethnic minority populations, and this group of trainers was selected to ensure a diverse cross-section of instructors would be available throughout our community. These trainers will return to spread knowledge and advocacy in their home communities, including Duluth, Faribault, Fond du Lac, Litchfield, Mankato, and all across the Twin Cities metro.

What Comes Next?

 As certified instructors, these twenty-eight community leaders are now ready to shine the light of hope and resiliency. They will:

  • Bring their community together in support of mental health awareness
  • Educate community members and build mental health literacy
  • Be an advocate in reducing negative attitudes about mental illness
  • Lead others in responding successfully and supporting community members in need

These new instructors are available to teach the eight-hour Mental Health First Aid course to community members and community agencies that will help participants identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illness.

If you are interested in attending or hosting a Mental Health First Aid training, visit the National Council’s catalog of upcoming training opportunities, as well as the contact information of available instructors near you.

Thomas Nguyen, Psy.D., L.P., serves as the Clinical Training Director at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. He is an alumnus of the National Council on Behavioral Health’s “Addressing Health Disparities Leadership Program” and has dedicated his career to improving services for adult and children from diverse communities.

Paige Priolo serves as the Program Developer for Wilder’s Community Mental Health & Wellness programs. She has a background in public health and is committed to increasing access and awareness in our community.