MHFA Newsletter - Sept 2017

Mental Health First Aid News and Notes- September 2017

Message from Denise: 

One of the key messages of Mental Health First Aid is that:  Recovery is Possible/Recovery is Probable.  I always like to highlight this statement and talk about how mental health and substance use disorder treatment is becoming more effective all the time.  Our increasing knowledge about how our bodies work and advances in technology enable us to have a much clearer understanding about the nature of all illnesses including behavioral health disorders.  In regards to behavioral health treatment advances it is an exciting time to be able to encourage others to seek treatment.  We can speak to the effectiveness of treatment with confidence.

An example of a new treatment is medication assisted therapy for opioid addictionThis treatment is designed to help individuals discontinue the use of opioids, such as Heroin and Oxycodone, with the assistance of the medication, Suboxone.

In the United States, over two million people are dependent on opioids for daily life and it is estimated that 91 people die each day from an opioid overdose.  However, getting help isn’t easy. The symptoms of withdrawal including, cramping, profuse sweating, nausea, and vomiting, can often prevent someone from seeking treatment for opioid addiction. Suboxone prevents these symptoms, reduces cravings, and prevents a high if additional opioids are taken.  This allows the individual the ability to concentrate on their treatment plan and address social emotional issues impacting use such as depression, anxiety, and/or trauma.

Linden Oaks recently opened The Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) Clinic is in Naperville. The clinic is located on the Linden Oaks Naperville Outpatient Center campus on Mill Street. The MAT Clinic utilizes a combination of Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) combined with group therapy and case management to assist clients in accomplishing their treatment goals. Suboxone is convenient – it is taken once per day, and clinic visits can be as infrequent as once per month. Suboxone has been shown to reduce the risk of relapse significantly, compared to traditional treatment programs without medication.

The goal is for our clients to eventually live completely substance-free. This is achieved through medication, research-supported group therapy, and individualized case management.  The typical client experience begins with weekly visits with our medical and behavioral health team to provide extra support at the start of treatment while progressively moving down in frequency.

Benefits of medication assisted therapy:

  • Removes opioid cravings
  • Prevents a high if additional opioids are used
  • Prevents withdrawal symptoms
  • Increased treatment success rate
  • Fewer relapses than with traditional treatment
  • Less disruption to daily life than other methods

Talking about new behavioral health treatments in our classes is one way we can reduce stigma, offer hope and encourage people to seek help.  Be sure to share this message in your classes.


Instructor Corner-Updates from the National Council 

 Do you follow @MHFirstAidUSA on Twitter?  Have you friended them on FaceBook?   If you do follow MHFA via social media, you will have seen the tweets and posts featuring some well-known names including Michi Marshall (Brandon Marshal’s wife), Lady Gaga and her mom, and former First Lady, Michelle Obama.  We have some powerful voices sharing important messages about mental health and MHFA. 

Recently Michi Marshall hosted a Twitter Chat focusing on Mental Health at School.  Over the summer MHFA USA has hosted Twitter Chats on other topics as well.  These chats are an opportunity to participate in an online discussion with providers, MHFA instructors, experts and maybe someone famous.  Get tips and stats, share ideas about how to discuss mental health and participate to be inspired or reinvigorated about the work we do.  If you want to check out the Michi Marshall Twitter Chat follow @MHFirstAidUSA and use #BeTheDifference.  Watch for announcements about upcoming online chats.  Just be sure to use the #BeTheDifference.

Lady Gaga and her mother are also actively promoting MHFA.  As part of her current Channel Kindness Tour, MHFA USA and the Born This Way Foundation are working to train up to 150,000.  These promotions for MHFA create ways for us to market using these endorsements from big names.  How about linking to these articles on your LinkedIn account.  Or consider retweeting the posts from @MHFirstAidUSA and @BTWFoundation.  You can check out the full article here.




Here are some other ways to connect.  Go to Mental Health First Aid general website.  This is the site that everyone can access and is not limited to just instructors.  If you go to the Be The Difference tab and drop down menu, you can read about applications of MHFA in specific circumstances.  A recent post features the story of an Uber drive who noticed some signs that his passenger might be contemplating suicide.  His attention and willingness to act helped save the passenger’s life. 

You know I communicate this a lot – use the resources of the National Council and MHFA.  They provide a range of resources and inspiration for us to continue to Be The Difference.



Congratulations!  You’ve been a significant part of helping to train over 1 million Mental Health First Aiders in the United States.  At the national conference held in April, Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, made that exciting announcement.  Nation-wide there are over 12,000 MHFA instructors teaching courses to all kinds of audiences.

Here’s our exciting news:  in August we surpassed the 9000 mark for First Aiders trained by our consortium.  Congratulations again!  That number is amazing!  Thank you for your contributions to making this happen.  What’s even more exciting is that it should be easy for us to pass the 10,000 mark by July 2018.  Let’s set this as a goal for our consortium – to have trained over 10,000 First Aiders.

Due to the success of training 1 million people, the National Council recently changed their tag line from:  Be 1 in a Million to Be the Difference.  Here’s part of the press release from the national Council about the new campaign:

Mental Health First Aid USA has launched Be the Difference, a new campaign to encourage people to learn the skills to help people experiencing a mental health or substance abuse challenge.

“Anyone, anywhere can be the one to make a difference in the life of someone with a mental health or substance abuse challenge – if they know what to do and what to say,” said Linda Rosenberg,. “The difference between someone contemplating suicide and one who goes through with the act could be a friend, teacher, coach or parent who knows what to look for and how to engage people in open conversation. Those are the skills learned in Mental Health First Aid.”

Check out the Instructor Portal for downloadable graphics and posts featuring Be the Difference.  Feel free to use these in emails and any communications you send out about MHFA.


Curriculum Corner:  ALGEE Scenarios tips

Mental Health First Aid is about noticing and doing.  It is a skills based program.  Yes, we want to increase the knowledge base of our class participants, but first and foremost, we want them to be able to do things/say things to offer support and assistance.  So all of those scenarios are critical to the course.  They aren’t the fluff, they are the essential element of what MHFA is all about.  In the adult curriculum the final ALGEE activity/scenario is an important opportunity for participants to really practice ALGEE in action.  Here are some ideas on how to facilitate this activity.

  • Allow enough time for class participants to work on this in small groups and then share their ideas with the larger group.
  • Select the scenarios you will use based on your audience.
  • Prompt application of ALGEE by having the group answer these questions related to ALGEE.  (Hint:  I write these questions on the flip chart paper for reference during the small group work.)
    • A – How would you approach this person?  Is the person at risk?  What would you say?
    • L – List 3 things you will keep in mind while listening to this person.
    • G – Write a reassuring statement.  What is some practical information you can give this person?
    • E – How will you encourage professional help?
    • E – How will you encourage self-help?
  • Have each group write their ideas on a flip chart sheet to post and share with the larger group.

I have found that using these questions/prompts with this activity really provides participants with the final confidence boost to go forth as First Aiders.


MHFA Spotlight:  Tammi Dixson

Tammi, who has her MA in Pastoral Counseling, started working in residential programs for adults with various disabilities and diagnoses at age 19, in Minnesota. This was about the time the government began to move people from large institutions to community care.  Many people were left on their own, while numerous companies opened residential and day programs to try to deal with the influx of people. For a majority of individuals, with varying developmental disorders and mental illnesses (typically combined), it was difficult to categorize them for funding and placement.  Tammi has seen these services evolve over the years and has worked in a variety of capacities including:   managing group homes, care coordination and case management for non-profits and a bank trust.  Tammi’s work in a para-ministry led to her involvement with MHFA.

Tammi is passionate about MHFA for several reasons.  Her overarching reasons in her words are:

“It gives a platform that can reach far past just the person sitting in the classroom and allows for an honest dialogue. Mental Illness is something that affects all of us to some degree or another whether in Social/Human Services field or a business office downtown. MHFA gives us all a common ground to start from, but how it gets implemented is up to each individual community.”

“No matter what political side of the fence you are on (if any), the times are changing. Healthcare funding is on everyone’s mind including the loss of funding, not just for our organizations, but our own families as well. Where there is chaos and crisis there is also great opportunity:  the opportunity to make positive changes in how we interact and react to those we personally come into contact with, and the greater community around us.”

Thanks for being part of our Adult and Youth MHFA Team, Tammi. 



Teaching Tips:   Cultural Competency

Do you discuss cultural competency during the Listen Nonjudgmentally teaching sections?  While there may not be a specific bullet point for this in the powerpoint, the participant manuals for the adult and youth curricula address this (page 28 in the Adult manual; pages 29 – 31 in the Youth manual).  I particularly like the section in the Youth manual which addresses cultural competency from a standpoint of cultural safety.  Here are the key bullet points from the Youth manual:

  • Respecting the culture of the community by using appropriate language and behavior.
  • Never doing anything that causes the person to feel shame.
  • Supporting the person’s right to make decisions about seeking culturally based care.

In addition Rev. Jermine Alberty, National MHFA Train the Trainer Instructor adds these suggestions that First Aiders can do in using a culturally competent approach to MHFA:

  • Examine our values, behaviors, beliefs and assumptions.
  • Recognize the “ism” and the institutions or behaviors that breed them.
  • Familiarize oneself with core cultural elements of communities served.
  • Engage individuals to share how their reality is similar to or different from what you have learned about their core cultural elements.
  • Learn how different cultures define, name and understand disease and treatment.
  • Develop a relationship of trust with individuals by interacting with openness, understanding and a willingness to hear different perceptions.

Thanks to Rev. Jermine Alberty for sharing this.  To learn more about Rev. Alberty and his work visit:


New Collaborations

  • Lisle 202
  • Plainfield Fire Protection District
  • Advocate Medical Group
  • Presence Health – Aurora and Family Focus




  • 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 2017 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.
  • During 2017 we have offered:  19 Traditional classes with a coordinator present; 5 Quarterly classes within the Edward-Elmhurst system; and 19 Franchise classes (no coordinator present).  A total of 695 people have been trained through the end of August.  Keep up the awesome work.
  • The National Council has updated the Youth MHFA materials in much the same way that the adult materials were updated.  We are in the process of transitioning to these new materials, and we are very close to switching over to the new materials.  For those of you who are Youth MHFA Instructors, I will be emailing out the updated version of the powerpoint and working to get the updated Instructor manuals to you.  Stay tuned for that announcement coming soon!
  • Linden Oaks received a grant from the 708 Community Mental Health Board of St. Charles to provide MHFA classes (both adult and youth).  The classes are specifically for staff and volunteers of social service agencies that provide services to residents of St. Charles.  We are just now beginning to market those classes.  Watch for announcements about potential teaching opportunities.