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  • Sep 10, 2019

Free Mental Health Awareness Training for Community Members

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), an academic community health system serving Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston's metro-north region, is offering free, community Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trainings. There will be an MHFA training on October 30 for adults who work with youth and a general adult training on November 13. Both sessions will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the CHA Malden Care Center (195 Canal Street in Malden).

"The goal of our Mental Health First Aid project is to strengthen capacity in our communities to provide support and outreach for those dealing with a mental health or substance abuse crisis," said Jaime Lederer, MSW, MPH, director of the Mental Health Awareness Training program at CHA. "To date, we have trained and certified more than 300 community members and plan further outreach."

As concerns about mental health and substance use continue to rise, there is a significant need for basic mental health expertise in the community. Studies show that each year, more than one in five Americans experience a mental health or substance abuse issue. However, only 40% of those affected seek treatment. For friends and family members, it can be hard to know when and how to help. As a result, those in need of mental health services often do not receive appropriate help and care.

MHFA is an eight-hour certification training that provides individuals with the skills to assist someone facing a mental health crisis. Just as CPR helps even those without clinical training assist an individual having a heart attack, MHFA prepares people to interact with someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Trainees learn a five-step action plan that guides them through the process of reaching out and offering support.

"When we observe someone having a health crisis like a heart attack or car accident, we don't hesitate to offer aid," noted Lederer. "People are sometimes less comfortable responding to a mental health crisis - someone experiencing anxiety, severe depression or substance misuse. MHFA gives laypeople the knowledge and skills they need to provide assistance and refer people to further help. Research shows that those who have attended an MHFA class feel more prepared to assist those grappling with mental health issues and to help them get appropriate services." MHFA helps participants recognize the signs and symptoms of a number of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, substance use and ways to respond to crises like suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, and overdoses.

The free program at CHA is made possible through a grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA.) CHA is offering community trainings focused on adult mental health, challenges common among children and adolescents, and for Veterans and their families. The program is being offered for individuals who live or work in Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop.

To register for either or both classes, dial 617-806-8776 or email Program Coordinator Kerry Mello.

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