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National Council for Mental Wellbeing Welcomes New Group of Experts to Research Advisory Group

Media Contact
Irene Tung

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 9, 2023) — The National Council for Mental Wellbeing today announced the appointment of 10 leading behavioral health experts to expand its Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Research Advisory Board. First introduced in 2021, the independent advisory group was convened to advance the research, monitoring and evaluation of MHFA courses in the United States.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing body of research on the efficacy of MHFA in various populations, resulting in over 45 peer-reviewed articles. The recently appointed experts have a broad range of interest areas from mental health disparities in historically marginalized communities and the translation of evidence-based interventions to the workplace and guidelines for suicide prevention.

“Research is integral to the impact of Mental Health First Aid, and we are thrilled to welcome this group of esteemed professionals to our Advisory Board,” said Tramaine EL-Amin, vice president, Mental Health First Aid. “They will continue to further the evidence base for MHFA across teen, youth and adult populations, and reflect our organization’s commitment to evidence-informed programming.”

New members of the MHFA Research Advisors include:

  • Kimberly Arnold, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor, Family Medicine and Community Health, Perelman School of Medicine
  • Leopoldo Cabassa, MSW, PhD, Director, PhD Program in Social Work, Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
  • Lisa Curtin, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Appalachian State University
  • Jodi Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Social Work
  • Patricia Haynes, PhD, CBSM, DBSM, Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
  • Douglas Knutson, PhD, LHSP, ABPP, Assistant Professor, School of Community Health Sciences, Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Oklahoma State University
  • Sarah Lipson, PhD, EdM, Assistant Professor of Health Law, Policy and Management, Boston University School of Public Health
  • Erika Sabbath, ScD, Associate Professor, Boston College School of Social Work
  • Julie Smith-Yliniemi, PhD, MPH, LPCC, NCC, Assistant Professor, Director of Community-engaged Research, University of North Dakota
  • Angela Wangari Walter, PhD, MPH, MSW, Associate Professor, Public Health at University of Massachusetts Lowell

In addition to the new MHFA Research Advisory Board members, the National Council has awarded four $5,000 grants to outstanding doctoral candidates in support of research projects that will improve MHFA training and outcomes.

“The four grant recipients, Lily Chen, Morgan Grant, Claudia Won and Dee Yookong Williams, demonstrate significant potential in their field of study and we are proud to have the opportunity to support these early-stage researchers, while strengthening the evaluation of MHFA programs,” said MHFA Research and Evaluation Strategist Sanjana Bhakta, MPH.

For additional information about MHFA, please visit the Research and Evidence Base page on


About The National Council
Founded in 1969, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is a membership organization that drives policy and social change on behalf of over 3,300 mental health and substance use treatment organizations and the more than 10 million children, adults and families they serve. We advocate for policies to ensure equitable access to high-quality services. We build the capacity of mental health and substance use treatment organizations. And we promote greater understanding of mental wellbeing as a core component of comprehensive health and health care. Through our Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program, we have trained more than 3 million people in the U.S. to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.

About Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an evidence-based training program administered by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing that teaches individuals how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges. More than three million people across the United States have been trained in MHFA by a dedicated base of thousands of Instructors.

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