“What do I do? How can I help?”

These tough questions arise when community members encounter a person who appears to be experiencing a serious mental health crisis.In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc., is spreading the word about services that can help when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, including Mental Health First Aid.

“We want to shine a light on the importance of mental health,” said Erin Rust, GOBHI Mental Health First Aid coordinator and instructor. “One way to make a difference is simply being prepared. Our goal with Mental Health First Aid is equipping people with a set of evidence-based resources and tools, so we invite the community to take part in these valuable learning experiences.”

A public education program, MHFA helps people across the community to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental illnesses, builds understanding of their impact and gives an overview of supports that can make a difference.

Since 2013, GOBHI has had MHFA instructors on staff. The behavioral health organization currently has six GOBHI-certified MHFA instructors. These instructors are certified in adult, youth, public safety and older adult courses. Other MHFA modules include higher education, bilingual, veterans and fire/EMS.

Rust is responsible for coordinating and providing MHFA trainings that are requested by various organizations. She works closely in collaboration with Mental Health First Aid instructors who provide these courses in each community.

The eight-hour course uses roleplaying and simulations to demonstrate how to offer initial help in a potential emerging mental health crisis, and connect people to the appropriate professional, peer, social and self-help care. The program also teaches common risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses.

“It was like learning CPR for mental health,” said Amy Asher, Sherman County prevention coordinator and outreach coordinator. “Now, I feel more prepared and confident in lending support to those with complex needs. It gave me some important strategies I can carry with me going forward.”

Those interested in the program can reach out to GOBHI for information on attending, or even hosting, a training in their own community. GOBHI — and its partners — will be coordinating trainings throughout the year. The trainings are available at limited or no cost, depending on specific agency or site needs.

Staff can connect those interested with either a GOBHI instructor or other instructors in the community. Call 541-298-2101 or email erust@gobhi.org. For details, visit gobhi.org/programs/mental-health-first-aid.

GOBHI also partners with Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance. EOHLA received grant funding from The Ford Family Foundation, The Collins Foundation and the Oregon Office of Rural Health to provide and support MHFA trainings to teachers, law enforcement, church leadership and other public and social service employees who work closely with the community in the 12-county region of Eastern Oregon.

EOHLA has available resources to support costs and various materials related to MHFA trainings in the region.

Those interested in working with EOHLA to provide a training in Eastern Oregon can contact Alanna Chamulak at 541-219-2397 or John Adams at 541-219-0907.

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