MHFA Newsletter - December 2015

Mental Health First Aid News and Notes

From the Desk of the MHFA Coordinator

Greetings Team MHFA!  It’s been a busy fall at the Linden Oaks Behavioral Health MHFA Consortium.  Our class schedule stays busy, particularly with Youth MHFA as many school districts are requesting these classes.  In October we completed our MHFA trainings with the Naperville Police Department.  We’re pleased to announce that every sworn and civilian member of the Naperville Police Department has been trained in MHFA through our Consortium.  Thank you to all of the instructors who participated in these trainings.

I’ve also enjoyed working with our MHFA office team.  As you know Barry Groesch has been working with us since June, helping to launch the Elmhurst MHFA initiative and facilitate the police classes.  He will be heading back to Florida this winter (lucky guy!) but will still be involved in MHFA by teaching police classes and as a Quality Evaluator. Check out his article in the newsletter about the Quality Evaluation process.  I’m also pleased to introduce you to Trina Lueckhoff, our new MHFA Administrative Assistant. Trina joined us in September and I’m already not quite sure how we managed without her.  She is handling many of the class registration details and all of the paperwork preparation for our classes.  Find out more about Trina in the “Meet the Instructor” section.

So changes are happening.  Change is also coming our way from MHFA USA.  We are all required to teach 3 classes per year to maintain our instructor certification.  In the past this has not been closely monitored.  MHFA USA is now closely tracking the completion of the teaching requirement.  The only justification that an extension will be offered from this point forward are for a medical or family emergency.   The best ways to be sure that you teach enough classes are to 1) sign up for a class as soon as the scheduler is emailed out or 2) set up a class or two yourself – then you are guaranteed to be the instructor!

Some additional changes that are taking place on our end involve our registration process.  As we continue to offer a high volume of classes, we needed to find a more efficient way to organize the details of class events and to register participants.  We are now utilizing an Event Form to document the various details of scheduling a class:  open to the public or not; availability of equipment; what kind of PR is needed etc.  

If you schedule a class we will be emailing out an Event Form for you to complete.  It  will help keep us all on track and eliminate lots of subsequent emails.  We are also moving to online registration for all class participants using EventBrite, an online registration system.  EventBrite enables us to capture all of the necessary information about participants in a legible fashion and prepare the correct CEU forms.  Whenever possible we will be “requiring” the use of EventBrite as our registration system.  Payment for classes will not be offered online.

Finally, and this is will have an impact on you as instructors, we will now begin registering all of our classes on the MHFA USA website before the class occurs. Our practice has been that once a class is completed, we register the class (which generates an email to you as the instructor with a reminder to add the participants).  At that point, we enter all of the class participants (which results in another email to thank you).  Beginning in January 2016 we will be listing all classes on the MHFA USA site prior to the class occurring.  What this means for you is that the class may be subject to a Quality Evaluation visit.  

Helpful Hint:  Read Barry’s article on the QE process!  While our change in the registration process is being required by MHFA USA, let’s welcome the opportunity to be evaluated and embrace the chance to hone our teaching skills and distinguish our Consortium as providing quality MHFA instruction.  Onward!

Instructor Corner - An Inside Peek on the Quality Evaluation Process
by Barry Groesch

(Instructor Barry Groesch)

I’ve finished my background paperwork, completed several practice runs, and am now implementing Quality Evaluations for MHFA USA throughout the area.  It’s fun.  Yes, I know what you are thinking, “It may be fun for you, but it will be agonizing for us!”   To be fair, I felt the same a couple of months ago, but it’s not like that.  

If you are chosen to be evaluated, don’t let your anxiety get the best of you.  You just need to prepare and stick close to the “book” during your three hours of review.  The rubric is the tool used to evaluate instructors.  Quality Evaluators (QE’s) are not given much leeway in the process.  The rubric spells out the requirements so there is no guess work as to what you need to do. 

Several of the items that you will be assessed on, the consortium administrator already completes for you.  Did everyone in the class have a book?  Did you use the power point slides and was everything set-up prior to class?  Were the correct movies used?  Many of these items will be checked off in your favor before you even start.  What about when the consortium administrator assists you with the “Recovery Position” will that count against you?  No, you are evaluated on the sections you teach.  If, however, that portion of the curriculum was not completed you will take a “hit” on that item. If you miss a section that is considered mandatory (in the instructor manual), including discussion sections, you will receive a low score of 1 instead of a higher score of up to a 5.  

There are some other things to be aware of and here’s an example:  before class starts are you reviewing your notes while people are entering the class instead of greeting the participants?  If so, points will be deducted as this is considered to be an important time to be bonding with your audience and shows the utmost in professionalism.  Are you thinking, “Well how was I supposed to know that?”  It’s all in the rubric that you get before you are evaluated. My best advice in preparing for the QE process is to review and assess your teaching based on the rubrics provided by MHFA USA on the instructor website.  The rubrics can also be accessed on the following links: CLICK HERE.  

The three QE’s that work in this area are all very supportive and not intimidating in their style.  Due to MHFA requierments, I cannot evaluate members of our consortium.  One of the threes QE’s rarely leaves Chicago and you most likely have Jill.  Jill is one of the most compassionate and supportive person you could ever find. 

Why is this happening now?  MHFA USA is mandating that we enter all classes on the national MHFA website and this is how the QE’s choose their classes.  It has more to do with what time/date the QE can fit into their schedule than anything else.  You must teach two classes before you can be evaluated (so brand new instructors are exempt) and only the Adult and Youth MHFA curriculums can be evaluated at this time.  There are no other rubrics available for the other curriculums (police, higher education etc.), but they are working on that.  Once you are evaluated by a QE there are no other policies within MHFA USA that dictate that you will be evaluated again.      

If for some reason you do not pass, your ranking would be Provisional which means you cannot teach solo and are unable to purchase workbooks.  In order to be reinstated as a fully functional instructor you have to request a second QE visit. Otherwise, you would stay at that standing.  

If you ever want an unofficial practice run or have any questions, I would be glad to help you out. I can be reached at 630.777.0412 or via email at   

MHFA FAQ’s:  Does a facilitator always have to attend the classes?  Introducing our ACE Instructor Designation

(Instructors: Ricky Holman and John Moss)

The presence of the Linden Oaks Behavioral Health MHFA Coordinator at all of the Consortium MHFA classes is a unique feature of our Consortium.  It is a commitment that LOH has made to help spread the word about MHFA and also to support the development of our instructors.  You are the talent and it’s our job to do the behind the scenes work so that you can focus on continually improving your teaching skills.

Due to the growth of the Consortium, the desire to reach out to new communities and to recognize the teaching skills of many of our instructors, the LOH MHFA Consortium is creating an ACE (Advanced Course Experience) Instructor designation for those consortium instructors who meet certain criteria.  

Becoming an ACE Instructor designates that the individual has consistently demonstrated the skills needed to manage an MHFA course without the presence of the coordinator.  ACE Instructors will have the option of teaching a class without the presence of the coordinator if they choose.  LOH will still provide all of the pre-class preparation with marketing and registration, bring all of the necessary materials to the class site and do all of the post-class registration on the MHFA USA website.  

In order to be designated as an ACE Instructor the following criteria must be met:
  • Being an instructor for at least 2 years;
  • Teaching a minimum of 15 classes;
  • Consistently representing the Consortium in a professional manner by:
    • Being prepared to teach (not constantly reading from the teaching manual, following teaching guidelines set by MHFA USA);
    • Being on time to classes;
    • Dressing appropriately when teaching MHFA courses;
  • Demonstrating willingness to and actions in improving MHFA knowledge and teaching skills; and
  • Expressing a willingness to teach without support from the Consortium Coordinator.
The instructor must be able to:
  • Manage all AV equipment independently;
  • Manage all activities and materials (handouts, quizzes, evaluations) independently;
  • Manage the timing of teaching all of the required material; and
  • Maintain all MHFA certifications for at least 2 years (without requesting an extension).
We currently have one Consortium instructor who is eligible for the ACE Instructor designation:  Amy Barth.  Congratulations Amy!  There are quite a few others who are eligible based on the number of classes taught etc. and only need to go through the QE process.  Those of you who are close to being eligible for this designation will be contacted for further discussion.  The option is always available to have a coordinator present at your training.  This designation simply recognizes experience and a high level of professionalism as we continue to grow our consortium.

Curriculum Corner:   Respecting your Audience

Recently I facilitated several classes attended by individuals with a unique perspective on mental illness.  Observing our instructors (who did a great job) in these classes I reflected on the intersection of the MHFA material and the perspective of these attendees.  A majority of the participants in these classes had a family member or friend who died by suicide or who was in the midst of a challenging episode of their mental disorder.  I focused on hearing the MHFA material as someone with this type of lived with experience.  I heard our teaching on the Assess for Risk of Suicide or Harm in a different way during those classes.  

Here’s what we all understand about the Assess action step in ALGEE:  we believe that we can have a positive impact on preventing suicide by learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts and behavior and knowing the actions steps to intervene.  Amen – right?  But here’s what is also true:  that sometimes in spite of our best efforts and the person’s fight against their disease, the illness wins.  I don’t write that to bring everyone down, but rather to make that connection again between physical and mental illness.  When someone dies from cancer after several rounds of treatment or years of fighting the illness, we don’t say that their family members or friends could have prevented the illness if they had only done…. 

Destigmatizing suicide means recognizing that sometimes people succumb to depression also.  Of course we work to fight it, of course we want to encourage everyone to do all they can, but we have to be careful to not sound preachy or blaming to friends or family members by making it sound as though they could have prevented the suicide if only they had…..
Next time you teach this section in any of the curricula, try to hear the words with the experience of a survivor.  How would you need to hear this information?  What would you want others to know about depression and suicidal thoughts/behavior?  Examine your presentation of the material – does anything need to change in the language you use or the tone of your presentation.  
I want to thank those participants in the classes I attended.  Being able to sit with you and being able to view the material, in a very small way, through your vantage point was very eye-opening for me.  Thank you for your willingness to share your experiences with others.

MHFA Spotlight: Welcome Trina Lueckhoff, MHFA Administrative Assistant

Trina joined the Mental Health First Aid team in September of 2015.  Previously she held Administrative Assistant roles for several years in a variety of industries.  Trina is quickly learning of the importance of Mental Health First Aid and how valuable this class is in helping our communities interact with people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis and helping support them.

Trina says, “I feel so thankful to work and live in a community where we have a consortium of 70 instructors to help educate our residents, colleagues, families and friends.”   She looks forward to working with the MHFA Consortium and hopes we can inspire one another to continue our amazing work. 

Teaching Tips:   Additional Materials we’re Working on to Assist with the QE Process

(2015 MHFA Luncheon)

As you become familiar with the QE process and the MHFA rubrics, you’ll notice that there are some adaptations we need to make in terms of timing, activities and handouts.  Here’s what we’re doing on our end to help.

  1. We are required to provide a resource list to all participants.  This is a challenge as we provide so many classes in a wide geographical region. In the next month I will be contacting Consortium members to ask you to send me resource information that you know and trust.  Based on your input, we will be creating resource lists by county that will be distributed at all classes.  Your input will be crucial in making this a quality list.
  2. Getting through all of the required material in 8 hours is a must in order to receive a high score in the QE process.  To assist with this, I am putting together a suggested agenda with topics/slides, time allocated, specific times based on the class schedule.  My goal is to assist instructors in staying on schedule and covering all material.  I’ve used the draft schedules in several recent classes and appreciate the input from the instructors in those classes (Matt, Domenica and Genalin).  Watch for the revised schedule worksheet coming soon.
  3. The final ALGEE activity in the Basic MHFA class mandates that participants be given a scenario in order to develop an ALGEE plan.  This activity is done in small groups and is one more important opportunity for participants to practice ALGEE.  This activity is described on page 95 of your teaching manual.  I encourage you to become familiar with the scenarios, how the activity is run and to make adjustments as needed in your teaching schedule.  Of course, I will work with you to facilitate this activity and work through the schedule.