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The Power to Make a Difference


This article originally appeared in Linda’s Corner Office blog. Read the original post here.

The National Council has been honored with a prestigious Power of A Summit Award from ASAE, the Center for Association Leadership, for our Be 1 in a Million campaign. We are one of only six associations receiving this year’s top accolade, and we are very proud.

ASAE created the Power of A Awards to showcase how associations leverage their unique resources to solve problems, kick-start innovation and improve world conditions. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.

Amid an opioid epidemic and a deepening mental health crisis marked by “deaths of despair,” we had to act. We brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008 with the goal of making it as common as CPR, and in the first eight years, we trained 500,000 people. When we launched the Be 1 in a Million Campaign in 2016, with the goal of doubling the number of trained Mental Health First Aiders, we did so in the face of some grim statistics.

  1. By 2015, the number of drug overdose deaths topped 50,000 people, more than 15,000 of them attributed to prescription opioids. Nearly 100 people a day die from drug overdoses, which are now the leading cause of death among Americans under age 50.
  2. In late 2015, Nobel Prize-winning economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case reported that life expectancy for middle-aged white Americans, on the rise for decades, was declining. Death rates rose sharply between 1999 and 2014, with suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol-related disease as the main drivers.
  3. During the same 15 years, rates of suicide rose steadily, with the greatest increases among girls aged 10 to 14 and men aged 45 to 64. Today, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the nation and second among those aged 15 to 34.

But this isn’t about numbers; this is about people. It’s about our coworkers and our neighbors. It’s about our family and our friends. It’s about the people with whom we worship and with whom we play. We want to help. We want to do the right thing, to say the right thing, to help stop the struggle and end the pain.

This is where Mental Health First Aid comes in. It helps us answer the question, “What can I do?” You have stepped up in record numbers to respond.

That’s why this honor belongs to each and every one of you – the Instructors, trainees and individuals whose lives have been touched by Mental Health First Aid. Your enthusiasm garnered more than 10 million impressions using the hashtag #1in1m. You helped us expand the reach of this life-saving program by championing customized courses for public safety, youth, higher education, military families, employers and rural audiences. Most important, you told your stories.

At this week’s Mental Health First Aid Instructor Summit, accomplished Instructors will join those of you new to Mental Health First Aid to learn from experts on various topics, share best practices and be inspired by leaders in the movement. National Council Vice President for Public Education Betsy Schwartz will convey our gratitude for your dedication to this life-saving work.

This honor belongs to our Board, which had the foresight to support our plans for Mental Health Aid from the beginning, to our member organizations who were early adopters and to our talented and dedicated Mental Health First Aid staff and consultants. They helped us garner extensive media coverage in major outlets like CNN, USA Today, The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

This honor belongs to our 49 partners, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Sandy Hook Promise, the National Business Group on Health, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Scattergood Foundation and Postpartum Progress. In October 2016, IACP called for 100 percent of sworn officers and support staff to be trained in Mental Health First Aid to help deescalate crises without compromising safety. To date, 150 departments have committed to that pledge.

This honor belongs to our supporters in schools, corrections departments and city governments around the country. Mental Health First Aid is now required for all teachers in Texas and the Philadelphia County School District. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has trained all 16,000 of its staff members, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stepped up with his pledge to train 250,000 people as part of the ThriveNYC mental health roadmap.

Because of your hard work and support, we trained our 1 millionth Mental Health First Aider on April 4, 2017, just 15 months after the campaign began. But this is just the beginning.

We are committed to making Mental Health First Aid as common as CPR and won’t rest until every adult in America is trained. I know you will hold our feet to the fire to ensure that we succeed!

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