Become a Mental Health First Aider and Support Your Community!

By Shaida Hossein, OTD, Behavioral Health & Training Manager 

Individually and collectively, we continue to experience significant impacts from COVID-19. We may feel worried, nervous, irritable, angry, sad, grief-stricken, or many other emotions. Although these are common reactions in response to a global pandemic, they can also be distressing and cause disruption. During this time of uncertainty, some people may experience them for a short period of time, while others may experience them for much longer, resulting in mental health challenges.

In July 2020, Jewish Family Service began offering new virtual Mental Health First Aid trainings, focused on both adults and youth (designed for adults who regularly interact with youth ages 12-18). From July 2020 – January 2021, we offered 17 trainings and will continue to offer them each month throughout 2021. Below, past participants share how the training was meaningful to them in their new roles as “Mental Health First Aiders”:

  • “I want to thank you again for the training. I found it super informative and actually ended up using some new skills later that evening talking with a friend who has been struggling with depression the last couple of months.”
  • “I realize that I need to pay closer attention to early signs and symptoms as it can improve the outcomes of recovery.”
  • “The most relevant thing that I learned were the additional resources to call in a mental health crisis besides 9-1-1. I will be sharing this resource with my colleagues and social groups and will be using it myself.”

Although the context of our communities is changing and shifting, as trained Mental Health First Aiders we have important roles as mental health ambassadors, caring colleagues, informed helpers, and being knowledgeable about resources in the community. When someone is distressed or experiencing a mental health crisis, your First Aider role will be to assist the person until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis is resolved.

How does it work?

The adult training is 7.5 total hours of content and the youth training is 6.5 total hours of content. Each of these trainings is a hybrid: There is a self-guided portion and a synchronous portion (live via Zoom). The self-guided completion is mandatory to attend the synchronous component. In order to provide adequate support to attendees and maintain the efficacy and quality of the curriculum, each course will be led by one instructor and limited to 15 participants.

Who are the trainings for?

Adult Mental Health First Aid (open to anyone age 18+)

This free, virtual training teaches attendees about mental health issues, how to identify a person who may be in a crisis, and how to start a conversation with someone who may be experiencing a mental health challenge. This interactive course focuses on increasing participants’ confidence levels to help individuals in distress. It also prepares participants to identify multiple types of professionals and self-care resources. During this course, you will gain knowledge about signs and symptoms of mental health challenges that adults in your community may be experiencing and receive an action plan for how to best support them.

Youth Mental Health First Aid (open to anyone 18+ who regularly interacts with youth ages 12-18)

This free, virtual training gives attendees the skills to provide initial support to adolescents (ages 12-18) who may be developing mental health or substance challenges, or who are in crisis. Participants will have the opportunity to decrease stigma around mental illness and substance use, increase mental health literacy when working with young people, and serve as a vital link between youth and appropriate professional help. During this course, you will gain knowledge about signs and symptoms of mental health challenges that your youth may be experiencing and receive an action plan for how to best support them.

I am interested; how do I register?

• Email with your first and last name, phone number, email address, and the date of the training you are interested in. You will be registered by the instructor. Please do your part in ensuring the success of this opportunity by completing your self-guided work on time. We aim to leave no seats empty!
• View our JFS website calendar for upcoming training dates.
• Once the self-guided and live Zoom portion trainings are completed, participants are certified as Mental Health First Aiders for three years.

Why is the self-guided work required prior to attending the synchronous training?

• It includes videos and slides that will provide you with the background and groundwork necessary for you to be able to fully engage in the instructor-led virtual class. The instructor cannot allow participants to attend the live training until all components of self-guided work is completed per certification requirements set by The National Council of Behavioral Health.

Are there breaks during the synchronous training?

• Yes, the instructor will teach for 90 minutes, and then there will be 10-minute breaks. Also, there is a 30-minute break for lunch. Our Adult MHFA trainings are hosted from 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on their scheduled days; Youth MHFA trainings are hosted from 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Which materials will I receive once registered?

• Once you complete the self-guided component of the training, you will have access to a viewable MHFA manual, downloadable Participant Processing Guide (workbook), and downloadable Self Care Action Plan. If you are interested in a hardcopy MHFA manual, they will be available to purchase by early spring 2021.

What technology is needed for the training?

• For both the self-guided work and the live Zoom training, you will need internet access and a computer. It’s important that the computer has a microphone and camera/video capabilities for the actual training date. You do not need a Zoom subscription, as it will be provided by the instructor. If you haven’t yet used Zoom, don’t worry! You will become familiar with how to navigate it during your self-guided training portion.

Interested in registering? Please email with your first and last name, phone number, email address, and the date of the training you are wanting to participate in. You can also check the JFS website calendar for upcoming trainings. 

Leave a Reply

JFS is a 501(c)(3)

(206) 461-3240