With 14 years of experience in the corrections industry, plus family in the field, Kristen Thompson has a bead on what goes on inside correctional facilities. Thompson, who is a field services training manager for the Wyoming Department of Corrections, had a parent who worked in corrections, and her spouse also works in corrections. So, when it came time for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing to develop a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course for people who work with incarcerated populations, Thompson was the perfect person to turn to for input and guidance on the course.
Thompson recognizes mental health is a sensitive issue for most who work as a professional in correctional facilities. But she’s also seen firsthand how 50% of corrections officers have reported post-traumatic stress symptoms and 48% have reported mild to severe depression.
“Working in corrections, we have a high rate of deaths by suicide. There is a mental health crisis,” she said. “But in corrections, mental health is a hard topic for staff to talk about. Many people feel we shouldn’t show weakness, and we should ‘tough it out,’ because it’s our job to keep our communities safe while working with an incarcerated population.
“MHFA for Corrections Professionals speaks to those of us working in this profession. While working with the National Council on this course, I wanted to ensure the course made staff feel recognized and seen.”
MHFA for Corrections Professionals is an evidence-based, early-intervention program. It equips staff with the knowledge to identify, understand and respond to mental health and substance use challenges in their colleagues. Through relatable, real-life scenarios, the training teaches learners risk and protective factors specific to corrections professionals, as well as methods of self-care they can use following the application of MHFA.
From corrections officers and chaplains to administrative teams and health care staff, MHFA for Corrections Professionals is a tool that can be utilized in crisis and non-crisis situations.
“In recent years, our industry has seen the growing information on mental health, and we need to build on that,” Thompson said. “By becoming a Mental Health First Aider, a potential learner can respond to a family member, friend, co-worker, associate or someone in their community. Mental Health First Aid allows a learner to become aware of how to apply the 5-step MHFA Action Plan (ALGEE) in a multitude of situations from early signs up to crisis situations.”
People shouldn’t have to tough it out, at work or at home. MHFA for Corrections Professionals is a way to reach a community who is dedicated to their community. #BeTheDifference and enroll in the course today.
Burhanullah, M.H., Rollings-Mazza, P., et al. (2022, January 25). Mental health of staff at correctional facilities in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology. 12, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.767385.
Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA. National Council for Behavioral Health d/b/a National Council for Mental Wellbeing.