The first Mental Health First Aid training session last month at the Brown Center in Arkansas City generated a lot of positivity and support from the 19 attendees who learned how to help those suffering from mental illness and substance use problems.

Just as CPR can save people that experience a heart attack, MHFA also prepares participants to interact with a person going through a mental health crisis.

Robin Brannum, director of operational support and training with the Four County Mental Health Center and a MHFA trainer, said that people from all avenues of life express an interest in MHFA. They include educators, fire and emergency personnel, community leaders, medical specialists, therapists and counselors, case managers and others who work in foster care.

These MHFA training courses fill up quickly. The next training course this month is already full. There is a limit of 20 people to enroll in the classes.

Brannum said the Dec. 2 training session at the Winfield Early Learning Center, 509 E. Eighth St., still has some seats available. For more details, interested individuals can call Brannum at (620) 332-1947 or (620) 332-3855.

Brannum wants people to know that additional class offerings are forthcoming.

“We will continue to have classes. We have a list of additional people that have requested the training, so we will be continuing to put classes together,” she said. “When a class has reached full capacity, we can’t open up to more attendees.”

These are “blended” classes, meaning the participants will be completing ahead of time two hours of self-paced training through the MHFA Learning System prior to the 4 1/2-hour in-person class.

“We are arranging the classes to honor social distancing and wearing masks to protect against COVID-19,” Brannum added.

Cost of the classes is $35 per attendee. Participants can bring their own lunch. Snacks and materials for the classes are provided. The information covered and discussed during the Dec. 2 class is geared toward adult MHFA.

“This course gives people the tools to identify when someone might be struggling with a mental health or substance use problem. It also aims to connect them with the appropriate support and resources when necessary,” she said.

Mental Health First Aiders learn a five-step action plan that guides them through the process of reaching out and offering help, encouragement and support.

According to the National Council For Behavioral Health, the MHFA program reveals how to improve people’s mental health, increases understanding of mental health issues and treatments, connects more people with care and reduces stigma.

MHFA was originally created in 2001 in Australia, under the auspices of the University of Melbourne. It is currently international, with programs in countries such as the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Finland and Singapore.

As of 2016, the National Council For Behavioral Health reported that more than 550,000 people have been trained in MHFA in the U.S. by a network of more than 9,000 instructors.

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