MHFA newsletter - Nov 2016

November 2016



Message from Denise:  Hearing Stories of Recovery

One of the bullet points on the slide for risk factors of depression highlights “having a sensitive emotional nature.”  That’s not me.  I’m usually not one to cry at movies or tear up during an emotionally moving situation.  So when I was moved to tears during the recent Pathways to Promise Conference it surprised me.  The conference speaker was sharing the story of her journey to recovery and wellness.  Her journey included times of stress and loss but also opportunities for connection and healing.  Later I reflected on why her story touched me.  I recognized that I approach mental health always wearing my clinical hat.  That hat serves me fine in certain situations, but if I never take it off I continue to respond from only one perspective.  For me, that can lead to judgement and diminish empathy.

How do I shift my perspective and understanding?  How do I take off my professional hat?  I need to hear stories.  I need to seek out opportunities to listen to persons in recovery.  Each person’s story allows us to meet that person, not just the person’s illness; to honor all the aspects of the person instead of only responding to the illness as if that was the person.  I’m paraphrasing something I heard at the conference – but it’s an important concept:  when there is judgement in the room, the person disappears.  While clinicians need empathy to do their jobs, there is also a constant element of discernment.  At the conference I recognized my need to hear stories and see the person – that is what enables me to be a First Aider.

Do you have opportunities to hear stories of recovery?  I urge you to find ways to make this a part of your supplemental learning as an instructor.  We aren’t the experts about mental illness, we just have a fabulous opportunity to teach skills that can be helpful – skills that came from the community of persons in recovery.  Recovery stories can be read at

MHFA Consortium members with National Trainer Rev. Jermine Alberty





Instructor Corner – Helen Fitzpatrick

As a clinician working with older adults I witness every day the unique issues this population faces with respect to mental health and overall well-being.  I work in the Senior Services Program at Metropolitan Family Services out of the DuPage office.  Our program services seniors 60 and up and in DuPage County.  We provide support and counseling to seniors and families caring for aging relatives.  In the client’s home or in our offices, a licensed professional assesses an older adult’s emotional and mental health.  My main office is at Elmhurst City Hall and from there I do one on one counseling, support groups, well-being checks and home visits.

There is a broad spectrum of issues facing the older adult population.  The issues I see are related to depression and anxiety, loss and grief, loneliness, difficult transitions, family conflicts and caregiver stress.  An older adult may be referred to our program because he or she is facing a few of the aforementioned issues.  A scenario may be that an older adult loses a loved one and then may need to downsize from the family home.  These very big changes bring about many emotions as well as logistical challenges.  When I first started to work with older adults and became familiar with some of these issues it became obvious to me that emotional support for older adults was important, unfortunately though, there are barriers for older adults seeking help.

Just as with the general population, there is a stigma with respect to mental health issues among the older adult population.  The older adult population often feels as though they can “tough it out” with regards to mental health issues.  They may feel as though they are speaking out against family members if they seek the help of caring professionals.  Also there are the logistical issues, transportation, resources and community education.  Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults offers a great education with respect to the issues this population faces and also provides an action plan that guides people in their responses.

Fear of becoming a burden is a common theme among older adults.  It is useful to convey common signs and symptoms about what to look for if an older adult is navigating mental health issues.  Common signs and symptoms might be isolation, memory loss, or coping with chronic illness and difficult emotions.  Bear in mind that the older adult may have additional problems with asking for help.  Factors like not being able to drive or maintain a household like one is used to can bring about anxiety and depression symptoms which can lead to isolation, loneliness and family conflicts.  Being aware of these issues can make a big difference with regard to helping the situation as emergencies can happen and making decisions on the fly do not always work out for the best.

Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults would benefit anyone in a caregiving role either professionally or personally, or family members.  The older adult population is going to continue to grow as many baby boomers get set to retire.  I truly believe that the landscape with respect to wellness and the older adult population is going to be dynamic and change to meet the needs of this population.  The more familiar we are with the needs of this population, the more we will be able to do outreach to this population.  Currently there are senior centers and programs designed for the older adult population in a variety of community settings.  Staff in these areas that are familiar with Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults can help meet the needs of seniors that have mental health issues and need extra support.

Class participants during an MHFA for Older Adults class at Belmont Village



MHFA FAQ’s: Regional Instructor Summit

On October 10, the National Council held the first Regional Instructor Summit in Des Moines.  MHFA instructors from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska were in attendance.  The conference featured speakers sharing ideas on how to market and promote MHFA along with practical tips on facilitating MHFA courses.  There were brainstorming sessions on dealing with common instructor challenges and a sharing of solutions to these challenges.  One of the best takeaways was the chance to network with other instructors and learn about the many ways MHFA is being taught throughout rural, suburban and urban settings.

Two representatives from the National Council were there:  Betsy Schwartz, VP of Public Education and Strategic Initiatives, and Todd Fisk, Director of Instructor Support.  Betsy and Todd gave the group a quick overview of some really cool things that are coming down the pike.

  • Teen MHFA – yes, a specific MHFA course for teens.  Hopefully this will be ready by fall 2017.  The model will be completely different but firmly based on research.
  • A reworking of the some of the adult curriculum – there will be more information on trauma and a revision within the substance use disorder session.
  • A revamped instructor website – hurray!  If you have gone onto the instructor website, you know that it is not easy to navigate.  This update should happen before the end of 2016 so stay tuned.

The number of MHFAiders is rapidly increasing.  The latest Algee-o-meter has the total number of trained MHFAiders at over 700,000 with over 10,500 MHFA instructors.  The National Council is still pushing to reach 1,000,000 First Aiders by the end of 2016.

Congratulations to Barry Groesch who received an award from the National Council for being the MHFA instructor from Illinois who has taught the most classes.




Curriculum Corner:  Older Adult Module

One of the new curriculum modules within the adult curriculum is for Older Adults and those with Later Life Issues.  The intent of this module is to increase the understanding of the mental health issues affecting the older adult population.  Some potential audiences for this curriculum include:  family members, aging services, senior center staff and volunteers, assisted living facilities.

On the national MHFA website you will find this background information about the course.  “Mental illness and aging can often be a double stigma. According to the National Council on Aging, there are more than 6 million Americans aged 85 and older. That number is expected to more than triple by the year 2050 when the youngest baby boomers turn 86. Older adults and care partners are less likely to identify a problem as a symptom of a mental health disorder. Furthermore, older adults have high rates of late-onset mental health disorders, like anxiety and depression, and low rates of identification and treatment. There is negative bi-directional impact between mental disorders and health conditions. Even “mild” mental illness symptoms can have catastrophic consequences in vulnerable older adults.”

 As with the other curriculum modules (i.e. the Higher Education module) there are changes in some of the materials.  There are changes in some of the slides including additional information about risk factors and statistics related to the older adult population.  In the section on Psychosis information about dementia and delirium is addressed to differentiate these concerns.  There are also different scenarios to use in the application of the ALGEE skills.  Older adult-specific resources are included throughout the supplement.  The videos for this course module have not been changed however, there are additional discussion points that apply to this population.

If you are interested in teaching the Older Adult module you must listen to the webinar on the MHFA USA website and pass the associated quiz.  As with all the modules, it is strongly recommended that you have experience working with or interacting with the older adult population.  Once you have completed the webinar and passed the quiz, you will receive this designation on your MHFA USA profile.  Linden Oaks has purchased all of the necessary material for this module, so you will not have to purchase any additional material to teach the class.  Currently we have 2 instructors with this designation.  Two classes utilizing this module have been offered and well received.



MHFA Spotlight

Dr. Genalin Niere-Metcalf considers it a privilege and honor to walk with people on their journey to wholeness and well-being.  She currently works at Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center as a licensed clinical psychologist.  She also is a spiritual director and is on faculty for a spiritual direction program with Selah/Leadership Transformation Inc. 

Aside from her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, she has her Masters of Arts in Spiritual Formation & Soul Care and a Bachelors of Science in Nursing.  Her experiences in these various areas has led her to a more holistic and integrated approach in her work as a therapist and to how she lives her own personal life.  Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her family and friends sharing in the simple day to day things of life, such as taking walks in nature, sitting around a fire, reading a good book, gardening and so forth.  She also enjoys traveling to new places, experiencing and engaging with other cultures.

Genalin instructs Cornerstone MHFA participants on “Shaky Man”




Teaching Tips:  Using Person First language

Thank you to Nanette Larson, Director of Recovery Support Services for the State of Illinois for providing me with permission to use this.  It is her original work.


Examples of Person First Language
He/She has bipolar illness (or a diagnosis of…)
He/She has schizophrenia (or a diagnosis of…)
He/She has a mental health condition
He/She has a mental illness
Person (singular) with a mental illness (singular);
Persons/people/individuals(plural) with mental illnesses(plural)
Instead of:
He/She is bipolar
He/She is schizophrenic
He/She is emotionally disturbed/mentally ill
He/She is mentally ill
The mentally ill….OR
People (plural) with mental illness (singular)


General Rules By Which to Speak, Write, Respect and Empower

Having vs. Being

To HAVE an illness, or to have the diagnosis of an illness, is notably different than to BE the illness.


When I “have bipolar illness,” I recognize that aspect of myself, much as I recognize that I “have brown eyes.” When I “am bipolar,” I take on the identity of BEING bipolar. It becomes me, and I become it.


When we talk about an individual as separate from their mental health condition, we recognize the person first, and we acknowledge the person’s power to overcome that condition and live a full life separate from it.

“I may have it, but it doesn’t have me!”

Singular vs. Plural

Mental Illnesses are diverse; there are many of them, and many types of them. To say the “people” (plural) have “mental illness” (singular), misses the breadth and diversity of the nature of mental illnesses.


Therefore, one person has one illness (“person with a mental illness”). More than one person has more than one illness (“persons with mental illnesses”).


To use the singular (illness) when speaking in the plural (people/individuals/persons) reinforces stigma and discrimination. It implies that there is only one mental illness, that it is “one size fits all.”



New Collaborations:  
  • Lake Zurich School District 95
  • Belmont Village
  • Elmhurst Police Department
  • DeKalb County Mental Health Coalition
  • Lombard Bible Church




Thank you to the group of instructors who attended our first Quarterly MHFA Instructor Networking Meeting held in early September.  We had a good discussion about promoting MHFA courses and did some brainstorming about additional topics to discuss.  Our next Networking meeting will be held on Friday, November 18 ( at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.  We will be discussing how to utilize the scenarios in the adult curriculum in the most effective manner.  We will also watch some of the teaching videos on the National Council website.

Remember all Consortium members are eligible to attend Linden Oaks educational seminars for free.  Linden Oaks offers seminars at the Mill Street location on a monthly basis.  These are generally worth 3 CEU’s.  Linden Oaks also provides webinars worth 1 CEU that are offered every other month.  Seminars for 2016 are listed on the website.  To register for a class call 630-527-6363 and let the receptionist know you are an MHFA instructor.  On-line registration for the events will not allow you to access the free class benefit

Congratulations to Trina Lueckhoff, MHFA Administrative Assistant, who recently attended a Youth MHFA Instructor Certification class and has now joined our Instructor Consortium as a new Youth MHFA instructor.

Did you know that the National Council is now offering MHFA Recertification for MHFA?  Click on the link below to find out more.


  • It’s simple and fast – Adult Mental Health First Aid Re-Certification is an online class that takes 90 minutes or less to complete.
  • It offers a refresher of the course, including updated statistics on mental health and substance use disorders.
  • It's affordable – Re-Certification only costs $29.95.
  • It’s available now to anyone who took the eight-hour Adult Mental Health First Aid course three or more years ago


Here’s an update on our training stats:  Since 1/1/16 our Consortium has trained 1525 individuals in MHFA/YMHFA.  Since the inception of our Consortium in 2010, we have trained 8119 individuals in some type of MHFA class (as of 10/31/16).  Think of the impact we have made and pat yourself on the back.  Let’s keep moving forward to reach the 10,000 MHFAiders trained mark for the Linden Oaks Consortium.