Pause for a moment to consider the following NAMI statistic: one in five adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness in a given year. Now consider it in the context of the last time you were fifth in line at the grocery store, catching up with four of your closest friends or in a meeting among four colleagues. We are friends with, work alongside and are related to individuals who have or will encounter compromised mental health.
As we move toward increased recovery and wellness, Netsmart continually looks for ways to make a positive impact. By offering Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to associates, clients and community members, we believe we help make a difference in our communities. The program teaches individuals how to offer support to someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use related crisis. Operated by the National Council for Behavioral Health (NATCON), the eight-hour course aims to equip participants with the necessary skills to reach out and provide initial assistance to those in need. Similar to the First Aid and CPR trainings offered through the American Red Cross, MHFA focuses on increasing emergency preparedness for individuals and organizations alike.
At Netsmart, we’re extremely fortunate to have two associates who are certified MHFA trainers, Julie Hiett and Tricia Zerger. Driven by their selfless passion to serve others, the dynamic duo host trainings in addition to their roles at Netsmart. This year Julie and Tricia have presented six training sessions to 144 individuals. Since implementing the MHFA training program, Netsmart has certified more than 700 individuals.
With the nationwide need for additional mental health support, local organizations have contacted us requesting training for their teams. To support our belief that organizations and community leaders can make a significant impact, we remain committed to providing education, training and resources beyond Netsmart.
This year NATCON selected Netsmart as the 2018 Mental Health First Aid Business Leadership Award recipient. It was an honor to be recognized for our continued efforts to expand MHFA training. As the first business corporation in the U.S. to offer MHFA to associates, we’re reminded of the power in aligning our practices with how we can better serve our clients and communities.
To remain cause connected, we broadened training this year by offering a full-day of MHFA training at CONNECTIONS18, our annual user conference. Netsmart clients from across the nation assembled to soak up the program’s key learning points. The session was truly unique in that it granted Julie and Tricia the opportunity to bring the Netsmart mission to life by connecting the causes and communities we serve to the rest of healthcare. Since mental health impacts all of healthcare, the room sat united and equally engaged. In May at CONNECTIONS19, the two look forward to holding the second annual MHFA session.
Today, more 12,000 instructors across the U.S. have helped more than 1.5 million individuals obtain their MHFA certification. Earlier this year Julie and Tricia had the opportunity to attend the 2018 MHFA Instructor Summit. Joined by hundreds of instructors across the country they enjoyed the opportunity to network, reflect and become reenergized by the incredible potential the program holds.
MHFA training impacts each trainee uniquely. From reducing stigma surrounding mental health, to reframing fear that keeps us from helping someone in need to potentially saving a life, countless benefits are possible. Hear from MHFA certified Netsmart associates below to discover what training meant to them:
“Taking the Mental Health First Aid training class truly exceeded my expectations. Having family members who battle depression, I took this course to learn how I could be more supportive of them. In the end, I now feel I have the knowledge to better assist my family as well as be able to assess and aid anyone else that I perceive as needing support and attention.” – Steve Gregoire, VP/GM, Client Alignment, East Core Clients
“My first reaction was to find out who I could share the experience with first! My managers made it a priority for their associates to attend at the first available opportunity. Now the whole team has a deeper understanding of the crisis signals related to mental illness. Beyond the work environment, I even started looking into creating a Mental Health First Aid merit badge for Boy Scouts to earn!” – Chris Newman, GM, Helper Operations
“Mental Health First Aid takes the concern and fear out of how you recognize and help another person experiencing a mental health issue. It was a great refresher for me to look beyond those asking for help and to be more cognizant of those who may not seek help on their own. I am thankful that Netsmart sees the value in training associates. No one is immune to having a mental health crisis and bringing awareness only strengthens our mission of being cause connected. The training we receive may just save a life.” – Tracey Roxby, GM, Client Alignment Human Services – West Prime Clients
“In addition to gaining skills to help and serve those in my community, it was inspiring to see so many fellow Netsmart associates engaged. Primarily, the training enables us to understand and help those that may be struggling in our lives. Secondarily, the training received is essential to enabling open conversations about how mental health affects people and our community, a necessary first step in combating stigma surrounding mental health.” – Brian Spence, Engagement PMO Manager
“Prior to my training I never felt like I possessed the knowledge to be able to render competent assistance. The Mental Health First Aid training provided me with the tools and resources necessary to deliver the initial help someone might need if they are experiencing a problem or crisis. Being able to provide help to another is what is really important in life.” – Mark Van Horn, Client Alignment Executive
“I was immediately able to utilize the techniques that were provided in the Mental Health First Aid training as I have a family member that battles depression. I was also able to provide guidance to other family members as they interact with the individual based on the training I received. Many of us want to help those who are struggling and believe we are helping with what we say; unfortunately, that is not always true. If given the opportunity, everyone should participate in the training. It provides the real-time tools we need to support someone before they can see a professional.” – Kendra Perkins, Senior Solutions Strategist
“Mental Health issues in one form or another touch the lives of most people either directly or indirectly at some point in time. Mental Health is not a normal topic of discussion between the average person. Anytime mental health issues are brought up, it serves to educate any who listen. This knowledge can be used to hopefully ease the suffering of our fellows. But just how is one to gain practical knowledge that can be used in a non-clinical setting to help someone that might be suffering from mental health issues? That is where the Mental Health First Aid training comes into practice. Outside of the trained clinician, most people do not know how to direct people to help or assist them at that point in time that can temper their mental health issues. The MHFA certification teaches these skills that enable someone to approach, or not approach personally but sending for appropriate assistance, someone in distress in a safe and practical way.
Mental health issues need to be dealt with instead of hoping they go away. Most times when people come into contact with someone they believe has mental health issues, they act out of fear of some type. The MHFA training reduces this fear by teaching how easy it can be to assist someone in need if they are suffering long term or acute manifestations of mental illness. I’m grateful to have been introduced to this training. I feel that everyone should have the opportunity to gain the knowledge that this course teaches.” – Kevin Mahoney, PMO Data Analyst
To learn more about our efforts at Netsmart to eliminate stigma and remain cause connected, check out our EveryDayMatters Foundation. To access additional information about the MHFA campaign, click here.