May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Give Back’s Kansas Program Director Katie Latta is actively engaged in breaking the stigma around mental health challenges.
The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program is an evidence-based training that teaches the right way to engage with people who may be facing a mental health or substance use challenge and the right steps for getting them help if they need it. As a certified Mental Health First Aid trainer, Katie has been training Give Back staff and many of our partners in this important program. Research shows that this type of early intervention can play a huge role in helping people get the help they need.
“When I first started working with High School students at Give Back, I was afraid I would say something wrong. I wanted to learn how to be comfortable talking with students and make sure I was prepared to help if needed. I learned the simple act of showing someone that you care how they feel is very valuable. ”
“As a mental health first aider, we are trained to ask questions, show that we care, and then encourage both self-help and professional help, if needed.” Katie first found the Mental Health First Aid program when she joined Give Back in 2018 and was looking for help making the transition from working with adults to working with High School students. She learned that helping students successfully complete high school and prepare for college takes more than focusing on academics, it became clear to her she needed to take more of a holistic approach, including a focus on mental health. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that she decided to invest the time and energy to become a certified trainer. “Mental Health Challenges have affected me, my family, and many of our students. During [the pandemic] I saw mental health challenges increase in these groups and realized the importance of reducing the stigma around talking openly about our mental health.
Katie decided to teach MHFA because, “I want people to not hesitate to ask someone how they are doing and then take the time to listen. Many adults worry that they could cause harm or offend someone by saying the wrong thing. The training teaches people how to use the proper language and provides experience in getting comfortable with talking about mental health. And, while we leave the diagnosing up to the professionals, the training also teaches the signs and symptoms of common mental health challenges, and how to differentiate between crisis and non-crisis situations.
Katie has already trained the majority of the Give Back staff to become Mental Health First Aiders and is now making the training available to our partners. Katie is also looking into additional training that would allow her to train Give Back students and alumni how to listen to and help each other.
Who should take Mental Health First Aid? Katie says, “Everyone should become MHFA certified. Mental Health First Aid mirrors traditional first aid or CPR training, by teaching an action plan and the steps to take to get someone help. You hope you never have to use it, but it’s important to know what to do, especially if someone is in crisis.”
For more information and to find a class near you visit https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/