Four years ago, a group of local hospitals joined forces to bring free adult Mental Health First Aid training to North Florida. The goal was to train 10,000 first responders and residents to recognize signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. As of April 30, 2021, that goal was exceeded, with 10,214 trained.
Ascension St. Vincent’s, Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, Mayo Clinic in Florida, and UF Health Jacksonville coordinated the effort to bring the free training to North Florida.
Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that teaches everyday citizens how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and behavioral health issues. The non-profit hospitals paid all course training fees for a three-year period. Mental Health First Aid’s goal is to take the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health challenges. The action plan teaches citizens to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder.
Mental Health issues in our community have been a top priority for Jacksonville’s health institutions since the 2016 release of the Community Health Needs Assessment, which revealed the state’s need for additional mental health funding. That assessment, which placed Florida 49th among states in mental health funding, and northeast Florida as the second-lowest funded area statewide, was the catalyst for the collaboration among the region’s health care providers. This partnership has been a tremendous success.
“The course is like CPR for mental health,” said local resident Johnny Woodhouse. “It taught me how to assess the risk of suicide or harm and listen in a non-judgmental way. I learned how to help someone in need get the right professional help to prevent a mental health crisis.”
As this initiative has been so well received, training courses are continuing. For more information on Mental Health First Aid or how to sign up for the course, please visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.