Jessica Heavin, Rogers State University’s Coordinator of Counseling Services is one of 20 individuals from the state of Oklahoma who have become certified to teach Mental Health First Aid. Heavin hopes to begin offering courses in the next few months to students, faculty, staff as well as members of the public to improve mental health literacy – helping them identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.
“We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid to our community,” Heavin 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 this community resolve any of the associated stigma and move more people toward recovery.”
Mental Health First Aid is a 12-hour training certification course which teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, implement interventions and secure appropriate care for the individual. The certification program introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common treatments. Thorough evaluations in randomized controlled trials and a quantitative study have proved the CPR-like program effective in improving trainees’ knowledge of mental disorders, reducing stigma and increasing the amount of help provided to others.
“We welcome Rogers State University’s involvement and enthusiasm in the Mental Health First Aid community,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and chief executive officer of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the organization who brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008. “We know they will have a great impact on the mental health communities throughout Rogers County and will be key players in improving mental health literacy nationwide.”
In its pilot year, the program was introduced in nearly twenty states and more than 40 communities nationwide. The National Council certified 20 individuals from varying professions to provide the Mental Health First Aid program in July 2009 through an instructor certification course in Oklahoma City. The certification course was sponsored by the Mental Health State Incentive Grant and the Oklahoma State Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. RSU and all the sites across the nation that replicate this program maintain strict fidelity to the original, proven program.
Mental Health First Aid originates out of the ORYGEN Research Centre at the University of Melbourne in Australia under the direction of MHFA founders Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm. To date, it has been replicated in six other countries worldwide, including Hong Kong, Scotland, England, Canada, Finland, and Singapore.
For more information on Mental Health First Aid training, visit www.rsu.edu/counseling or http://www.thenationalcouncil.org/cs/faqs. To learn how you or your organization can participate in Mental Health First Aid, call 918-343-7845.