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Ignite Awareness: How to Be a Mental Health First Aid Ambassador

It’s no secret that there is an unprecedented mental health crisis in the U.S. However, there is something we can do it about it. We know from the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum that the sooner a person experiencing a mental health challenge receives support, the more likely they are to recover. But, according to the National Library of Medicine, the average time between the onset of a mental disorder and receiving first treatment is more than 10 years. That’s why early intervention and prevention programs like MHFA are so crucial – they help close that gap so people can get timely support that they need and deserve. 

Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar says we typically have an “inner circle” of five to 15 close friends with whom we spend about 75% of our time. These are the people who are most likely to notice – and say something – if we might be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. That means, with roughly 335 million people in the U.S., it would take 22.3 million trained First Aiders to ensure every person in America has at least one of them in their inner circle who can provide crucial, even lifesaving, support. That goal is attainable! We’re already up to 2.7 million certified First Aiders in the U.S. to date. (Want to be one, too? Go to MHFA.org to find a course near you.)

One of the best ways you can help destigmatize mental health and continue to make mental wellbeing a national priority is by spreading awareness of evidence-based trainings like MHFA. Here, we will share a few great ways to do just that. 

Talk the Talk

When working to spread awareness about the importance of mental wellbeing and how MHFA can help, make sure you’re able to quickly explain to someone why they should care. A few best practices to consider: 

  • • Include a statistic that’s timely and relevant to your community. If you need inspiration, check out America’s School Mental Health Report Card for recent stats on each state. 
    • ○ For example: “In 2022, 54,000 youth in Alabama reported a major depressive episode, and only 37% of them received treatment for it.” Or say, “One in five young people experiences depression by the time they’re 18.”
  • •Summarize the course and what you learned. Check out MHFA.org for more information. 
    • ○ You might say something like, “When I took this one-day early intervention and prevention training, I learned how to help adolescents experiencing mental health challenges get the support they need.”
  • •Demonstrate how the course will benefit the person and their community. 
    • ○ You could tell someone, “When people use what they learn in MHFA, they can help someone get the help they need before a mental wellbeing or substance use challenge becomes a crisis.”

Share Your Story and Improve the Public Narrative 

A well-told story has the power to make positive change happen, especially when that story is far-reaching. As a Mental Health First Aider, you have invaluable insight into how mental health and substance use challenges are affecting people all over the country. Even more importantly, you have insight into how evidence-based trainings like MHFA can show people that recovery is possible. 

Your story about the impact of MHFA can give hope to someone who is struggling. The MHFA team is always looking for First Aiders who are willing to talk about their training experience with the media and spread awareness about mental wellbeing on a larger scale. Imagine opening the newspaper tomorrow morning to find stories about national mental wellbeing hitting an all-time high or the opioid epidemic coming to an end. That is our goal, and you can help us get there.

If you’re interested in sharing your story with us, email Communications@TheNationalCouncil.org. 

Leverage Social Media and Email

Never underestimate the power of social media! You are an influencer in your own right – you have people in your lives who listen to and trust what you have to say. If you are active on social media, here are a few ways you can be a great MHFA ambassador online: 

  • •Post pictures of your MFHA certificate or swag with a brief caption about your experience and tag us – we try to always repost!
  • •If you see a MHFA post you like, share it to your Instagram or Facebook story (or retweet it).
  • •If someone you know is hosting a MHFA training, spread the word by posting about it in the online communities you’re a part of – consider local Facebook groups and other appropriate forums. 
  • •If you’re not on social media and/or communicate a lot via email, consider using one of our MHFA email signatures, which you can find on MHFA Connect in the Resources tab. 

Not Yet Certified? Take an MHFA Course Today

Just as CPR helps you assist an individual having a heart attack, MHFA helps you assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance use-related challenge or crisis. You’ll learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and substance use challenges, strategies for how to help someone in crisis and non-crisis situations and where to turn for help. Sign up for a training.

Take the Next Step – Become a certified MHFA Instructor 

If you love being a Mental Health First Aider and want to do even more, become a certified MHFA Instructor and help make mental wellbeing – including recovery from substance use – a reality for everyone.  

With Mental Health Awareness Month just around the corner, we hope these tips will help you continue to #BeTheDifference in your community. 

References:

Chalabi, M. (2021, December 2). How many close friends do most people have? The answer is …. Ideas.TED.com. https://ideas.ted.com/how-many-friends-do-most-people-dunbars-number/ 

Hopeful Futures Campaign. (2022, February). America’s school mental health report card. Hopeful Futures Campaign. https://hopefulfutures.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Final_Master_021522.pdf. 

Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA for adults assisting adults. National Council for Behavioral Health.

Wang, P., Berglund, P., Olfson, M. and Kessler, R. (2004, April). Delays in initial treatment contact after first onset of a mental disorder. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361014/. 

The White House. (2022, March 1). FACT SHEET: President Biden to announce strategy to address our national mental health crisis, as part of unity agenda in his first state of the union. The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/03/01/fact-sheet-president-biden-to-announce-strategy-to-address-our-national-mental-health-crisis-as-part-of-unity-agenda-in-his-first-state-of-the-union/?msclkid=42a06f3cb4e611ec98fc979c05a5efed.