Highline College’s Samora Covington, left, and Nicole Wilson are newly certified to teach Mental Health First Aid, an 8-hour course.
The pair were among a group of 15 educators, counselors and paramedics from communities across Washington who participated in an instructor training course, held June 5–7 at Highline College.
People are more likely to encounter someone in an emotional or mental crisis than someone having a heart attack, so knowing how to provide mental health first aid is as important as knowing a life-saving technique like CPR.
The 8-hour course will give people key skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Through the instructor training, we are pleased to help expand Mental Health First Aid to communities throughout the state,” said Dr. Jeff Wagnitz, a vice president at Highline College. “Most people know how to recognize and appropriately react to medical emergencies, but there is little knowledge in the general public about what to do in a mental health crisis.”
The training can also help reduce negative or distancing attitudes towards individuals with mental illnesses and increase mental health literacy — being able to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
“We anticipate the new instructors will have a great impact on the mental health communities throughout Washington state and will be key players in improving mental health literacy nationwide,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, the organization that conducted the instructor training at Highline.
The new instructors join more than 17,000 others in the U.S. certified by Mental Health First Aid USA to lead training in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Instructors come from a variety of backgrounds, including behavioral healthcare, law enforcement and public safety, universities, faith communities and primary care.
Most in Highline’s recent training participated at no cost, thanks to a grant from the Washington Student Achievement Council, aimed at reducing suicide and increasing mental health.