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30 Courses Later, Sarah Haupt’s Passion for Teaching Older Adults Shines

When it comes to teaching Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), most Instructors have a favorite course. For Instructor Sarah Haupt, LMSW, it’s teaching MHFA for Older Adults. Having taught over 30 MHFA courses across MHFA for Public Safety, teen MHFA and Youth MHFA, Haupt recently reflected on her special connection with the older adult community.

MHFA instructor Sarah Haupt

A large part of Haupt’s career as a social worker has been dedicated to working with older adults. “Having open conversations about mental health can be uncomfortable and, in my experience, older generations were not always encouraged to discuss issues related to mental health. Being able to lead a group of older adults who were very open to learning new skills and were invested in discussing these concepts was so special to me. They were very receptive to the information and were inspired to continue to promote discussions about mental health with their peers.”

Older adults have high rates of late-onset mental health challenges, like anxiety and depression, and low rates of identification and treatment. Every 1 in 4 older adults have a mental health condition and more than 1 million adults 65 and older have a substance use challenge. Whether you need to assist older adults today or years from now, this course prepares you to have the conversations that will support older adults and improve their quality of life. MHFA for Older Adults teaches you to help those who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge through evidence-based, early-intervention training and education.

Creating Inclusive Learning Environments

Haupt’s MHFA journey began when she started coordinating and promoting the MHFA program at Johnson County Mental Health Center in Kansas. Her dedication to improving mental health outcomes and supporting individuals in crisis led her to become an Instructor.

As a MHFA Instructor, Haupt values creating a supportive learning environment by emphasizing the importance of allowing participants to learn without fear of judgment and by encouraging open dialogue. By modeling inclusive language and fostering a safe space for learning, Haupt ensures that everyone feels empowered to participate and engage with the material.

During these 30-plus courses, Haupt’s teaching style has evolved to become more conversational and engaging. She encourages dialogue and interaction, allowing participants to practice the skills learned in MHFA in a meaningful way. Through her approachable teaching style, Sarah’s goal is to help others become confident in their ability to support others in crisis.

Her favorite course to teach, MHFA for Older Adults, celebrates the wisdom and unique life experiences of older adults. Over the 8-hour day, Haupt ensures that her learners feel supported and engaged. By incorporating breaks and opportunities for socializing, she creates a welcoming atmosphere where everyone feels valued and respected.

As Haupt continues to teach more courses, she continues to learn. Here are some of her latest insights:

  1. There is a need to address mental health issues among older adults because they’re often overlooked and not equipped with the support they need.
  2. MHFA courses are an opportunity to inspire others: Haupt recently led an MHFA course where a participant was so energized by the course that she decided to pursue becoming an Instructor so she could teach the program within the organization she works for.
  3. MHFA can save lives. The morning after she taught a Youth MHFA class to a group of teachers from a local school district, one learner reached out to Sarah to share how that very evening following class, he was approached by a person in his life who shared they were struggling with thoughts of self-harm. The learner used the suicide risk assessment questions he had learned earlier in the day to get more information and then facilitated a phone call to 988 to get the person connected to help. He expressed that without the training, he wouldn’t have known what questions to ask or how to respond and connect the person to care. The learner felt that his taking the class that day may have saved a life.

If you’re interested in making a difference in your community, consider becoming an Instructor like Sarah Haupt. Join one of our upcoming webinars to learn how to get started. Together, we can #BeTheDifference by training 1 in 15 people to address mental health and substance use challenges.

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