ROCKFORD – Two Rosecrance staff members are among the first people in northern Illinois to be trained as instructors for a groundbreaking national initiative called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) USA. The program is designed to educate the public about how to identify, understand and appropriately respond to people in crisis for mental health and substance use disorders.
Interest in MHFA USA is growing in response to President Barack Obama’s call to fight gun violence by devoting more resources to training teachers, police officers, clergy and other community members to recognize signs of mental health disorders and respond appropriately.
Through a $10,000 grant from the Dr. Louis and Violet Rubin Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, Anne Fridh and Sarra Reichwald of Rosecrance have trained to become MHFA instructors. In turn, they will train local law enforcement officers and other first responders in important techniques that can de-escalate crises, connect people with appropriate care and save lives.
Three trainings for Rockford Police Department officers are set for November. More trainings will be scheduled soon for teachers and school personnel, as well as for firefighters.
“Research shows that the sooner people get help for mental health and substance use issues, the more likely they are to experience a positive outcome,” Fridh said. “This training is crucial for anyone who spends time with young people.”
Fridh, MS, Psy.D, is Director of Quality Management and Performance Improvement for Rosecrance. She is the first person in Rockford to receive certification as a Youth MHFA instructor. Fridh attended training this summer in Joplin, MO.
Reichwald, MS.Ed, Staff Educator at Rosecrance, attended training in Milwaukee in August for certification as an Adult MHFA instructor.
The training has been used across the nation for a variety of audiences and key professions, including primary care professionals, business leaders and employers, educators, corrections officers, nursing home staff, mental health authorizes and the general public.
Those who take the course learn a 5-step action plan to respond to individuals who are in a mental health crisis until they can be linked with appropriate help, possibly professional care.
That response plan is summed up by the mnemonic device ALGEE:
Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
Give reassurance and information.
Encourage appropriate professional help.
Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
MHFA is an evidence-based training program that began in Australia and first was piloted in the United States in 2008. MHFA is a being managed in this country by the Washington D.C-based National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.