It only took eight hours, but it’s changed my perspective on how I see people I interact with in my work and personal life.

Recently my co-workers and I used one of our two volunteer days (what Netsmart calls EveryDayMatters Days) to take the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course and learn more about mental illness and how to help people going through difficult times.  Netsmart is among only a handful of companies nationwide offering this training directly to their associates at work instead of leaving it to us to pursue on our own time.

It’s usually easy to recognize physical illnesses in others. But thanks to MHFA, my eyes were opened to look for signs of mental health or substance use issues in family members, friends and colleagues. More importantly, MFA training equipped me with an action plan to use if I encounter someone who might be in trouble. That’s powerful. It’s got me thinking about what a major difference we can collectively make.


Proudly certified in Mental Health First Aid… one of Netsmart’s first MHFA classes

The breadth and depth of the problem of mental illness is significant. We learned that one in four Americans experience a mental health or addiction disorder each year. The trainers who visited my workplace also shared their personal stories about how mental illness has impacted their lives. Hearing those stories, relating to those stories and understanding how a single, concerned individual can help others chart a new course made a big impression on the 20+ people in our certification class. It’s one thing to hear about the financial costs associated with mental illness in the workplace – business losses of an estimated $80 to $100 million – but to listen to tales of the personal losses inflicted by treatable diseases of the mind…that hits home.

The American Heart Association estimates that about 30 percent of our country’s population is trained in CPR.  But at the beginning of 2016, there were only 660,000 trained in Mental Health First Aid. The National Council for Behavioral Health’s “Be 1 in a Million” campaign’s goal is to train one million people in MFA by the end of the year. I’m thrilled to be able to make a difference as one of those trained to help.