To listen to the Show Me Today interview with Amy Bartels, click below (15:49).

Mental health first aid training teaches people to put on their noticing glasses and respond appropriately. Missouri is offering this training to K-12 schools around the state – for free.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is using federal relief funds to partner with Mental Health First Aid Missouri to provide the training to K-12 schools across the state at no cost.

Amy Bartels, the project coordinator with Mental Health First Aid Missouri, said more than 2,000 school employees are signed up to complete the training.

“I think a lot of times people just want to understand how do I start? It feels uncomfortable, it feels maybe a little like I should mind my own business. And so, in the training, we really stress using an action plan,” said Bartels.

That action plan teaches participants to assess, listen, give reassurance and information, encourage appropriate professional help, and then encourage self-help and other support strategies.

“Especially in our schools, I think people are looking for, not really for answers, but for support,” she said. “I think that’s one of the things that mental health first aid does so well is it offers opportunity to put those tools in your toolbox – how to begin that conversation with someone about mental health, whether that’s a co-worker or that’s a student.”

The courses last about one day and certification is good for three years. They are available virtually or in-person.

“It really is important for people that take this training to understand that we’re not going to make you a mental health professional in a day. But some of the important things that we talk about and what we sort of say is one of the base skills that you learn is how to ask that question of someone that may be considering suicide. So, we definitely practice asking those tough questions. We also talk about how to notice maybe the difference between an emerging mental challenge versus a crisis. So, we spend a lot of time talking about what does it look like, what might be different and then how do you reach out appropriately,” said Bartels.

Although this effort is geared towards schools, Mental Health First Aid Missouri offers several free courses to the public that are funded by the Missouri Department of Mental Health. It also offers instructor training to teach others how to teach the public about responding to mental health and substance use challenges.

To find out more, click here.

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