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Paying It Forward This Holiday Season With Mental Health First Aid
Brianna Hauser

Becoming a Mental Health First Aider was a turning point in Brianna Hauser’s life. Her experiences as a survivor of domestic violence shaped her perspective on the importance of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and fueled her determination to help others. At first, she didn’t know where to start, but her journey to #BeTheDifference began when her organization offered Youth MHFA.

Overcoming Adversity and Embracing Resilience
After surviving domestic violence, going through a divorce and losing much of what she held dear, Brianna began her journey of recovery alongside her children. In the aftermath of leaving that turbulent environment, she and two of her children were diagnosed with mental health disorders. Brianna’s experiences left her with profound compassion and understanding of what it means to battle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.

“Ever since receiving support, experiencing recovery, and gaining an understanding of MHFA, I have been a huge advocate for Adult and Youth MHFA and feel grateful to be able to pay it forward. I can walk alongside someone experiencing hardship, offering a listening ear and a reassuring presence. I cannot make decisions for them, but I can stand as their unwavering support — a reminder that there’s help, hope and a path toward healing.

It took a good year of healing for me to be able to appropriately help others in a crisis. I worked hard to confront my fears, sadness and wounds first. That process gave me insight into how to support those in crisis because I had faced my own fear of the unknown, which so often contributes to mental health challenges. Because of my MHFA training and the MHFA Action Plan (ALGEE), I can now confidently and safely approach someone in a crisis. I feel equipped with the tools to hold a safe, nonjudgmental space for others experiencing mental health challenges and help them get them the support they need.

Finding support, hope and healing has transformed my life. In 2020, I purchased my very first house, all on my own. In 2022, I married the best man I have ever met. He has been an amazing partner, so supportive of the kids and me through our healing journey, and my children are all making so much progress. I also went back to school and graduated with my Bachelor of Accountancy from Central Methodist University this year. In 2024, my husband will be legally adopting all four of my kids.

Pictured on the right is Brianna on her graduation day. She wrote on her cap: ‘Risen from the ashes to burn brighter.’

Brianna reflects, “I truly believe everything can be taken away from you and burned to the ground, and you can rise out of it and shine even brighter with the right tools, support and resilience.

To those considering MHFA training, I urge you to embrace it with an open heart and mind. Put aside biases and preconceptions; this training opens doors to understanding, compassion and a capacity to support others when they need it most.

“Together, let’s spread awareness, be the support system someone needs and pay it forward this holiday season.”

Brianna’s story is an inspiring testament to resilience. Her journey highlights the importance of having a support network of one’s own and seeking the tools and knowledge to pay it forward and offer effective support to others during challenging times.

MHFA believes every person should have one First Aider in their network of friends, family and peers. Every 1 in 15 people should be certified to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges. If you are already a First Aider — thank you for making a difference. And if you want to join us, we’d love to connect you with a training today. Find a course and #BeThe1in15.

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