By Jill Kluesner, National Trainer

 

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructors were creating ripples of change, shaping mental health literacy in their communities and grounding themselves and First Aiders in skills and knowledge to support the people in their lives.

Although physical distance can add an additional challenge to providing MHFA, the foundation remains the same. Physical distancing has compelled First Aiders to be creative with technology to connect, to be more active in looking for signs and symptoms, to schedule regular ways to check in and to be keen observers of non-verbal cues. Our current realities also prompt First Aiders to know their role and scope by encouraging appropriate professional help. First Aiders across the country are using MHFA to connect to those close to them and physically far from them. Because of MHFA, stories have emerged — stories of resilience, stories of connection, stories of shared suffering and shared empathy.

This epidemiological crisis has simultaneously highlighted the power of people and the large gaps in our systems. Now, more than ever, it is critical for us to bolster the infrastructure of mental health public education. In March 2020, as workplaces and schools shifted to remote environments, Mental Health First Aid USA also shifted the way we offer Mental Health First Aid Instructor trainings. In April 2020, the first virtual Mental Health First Aid Instructor course was held.

Soon, MHFA will roll out its new virtual delivery option, and Instructors will once again be able to train new First Aiders in their community. This new development will help more people find creative solutions to support their friends, families and neighbors. This means our communities will have greater mental health literacy and new tools and skills to help those in crisis during this difficult time.

These significant changes are only possible and necessary because of the work of Instructors and First Aiders throughout our communities. Together, we build upon our collective efforts. Together, we can #BeTheDifference.