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  • Jun 11, 2021

Cambridge Health Alliance Offers Mental Health Awareness Training and Resources for the Community

Since 2019, nearly 1100 community members of the community have completed MHFA certification.

EVERETT, Mass. — Community health system Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) is helping the community "be the difference" by raising awareness about mental health and increasing community capacity to support those struggling with depression, anxiety and substance use.

CHA's Community Health Improvement Department continues to offer the nationally recognized Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to the community. Since 2019, nearly 1100 members of the community have completed certification in MHFA, a program of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Trainees learn about risk factors, warning signs, and how to guide someone to helpful resources. In 2019, CHA expanded its training and educational opportunities by offering MHFA to employees, community partners and community members through funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Studies show that each year, more than one in five Americans struggle with mental health or substance abuse issues, while 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 the help they need.

CHA has built a community of First Aiders ready to reach out and support individuals experiencing a mental health challenge, and connect them to resources. MHFA trainees have already referred close to 1500 people to local and national resources for both crisis and non-crisis mental health and substance abuse treatment and support. They are also contributing to meaningful conversations surrounding mental health in their communities.

"It's humbling to see so many people from our communities participating in our program, especially given how challenging the last year has been," notes Project Director Jaime Lederer, MSW, MPH. First Aiders help youth, family, friends, coworkers and other community members to address and overcome issues that are seriously impacting their lives. "Many individuals struggle with a mental health or substance abuse challenge, and First Aiders are making a difference in people's lives."

Data from CHA-sponsored trainings show that MHFA participants report being more confident reaching out to someone dealing with a mental health challenge, recognizing signs, and listening compassionately to someone in distress.

"This training gave me more resources and confidence to advocate/refer a patient to mental health when needed," a CHA registered nurse noted. "I must say that so far this training has been a great asset, especially during this pandemic." Another participant described, "it is freeing to know that if someone comes to you, there is a plan and resources, so you are not feeling helpless."

CHA's Department of Psychiatry has created app guides for adults, adolescents, and children that include apps in various languages for stress relief to other mental health concerns. There is also a guide offering resources in multiple languages for children and families on the website.

If you have any general questions or are interested in MHFA certification, please email Project Director Jaime Lederer at or visit Trainings are available for CHA's service area which includes Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop.

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