New Campaign Aims to Train 1 Million Americans in Mental Health First Aid

By May Wilkerson 01/06/16

Over 500,000 people including First Lady Michelle Obama have taken the training course which aims to identify and help the mentally ill. 

Mental Health Campaign
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Despite the prevalence of mental health and substance misuse disorders in the US, many people still perceive mental health issues as a “personal” problem and turn a blind eye to those in need of help. Hoping to change this, the National Council for Behavioral Health has announced the launch of a new campaign, “Be 1 in a Million,” which aims to train 1 million people in Mental Health First Aid. 

Every year, one in four Americans will suffer from a mental illness or addiction, the organization notes. “The truth of the matter is that you are more likely to encounter someone who is experiencing a behavioral health condition or crisis" than someone facing a physical medical ​emergency, said Laira Roth, project manager for the council’s first aid course.

So far, more than 500,000 people, including police officers, teachers and First Lady Michelle Obama, have taken the course on how to identify when someone may be experiencing a mental health or substance use problem and how to encourage them to seek help.

The National Council made a $1 million contribution to the campaign, which will help fund scholarships for instructors who specialize in mental health and substance use, and provide grants to help instructors target more vulnerable US populations, like the homeless, survivors of domestic abuse and children in foster care. The campaign also received more than $15 million from Congress.

Organizations across the country have committed to training people in Mental Health First Aid in the coming year, including NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio, who pledged to train 250,000 New Yorkers. And last year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held more than 100 training sessions.

“This training is relevant to all of us,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council. “When you complete the Mental Health First Aid training, you will know how to intervene with someone who is actively suicidal, or help someone who is having a panic attack. You will be able to support a veteran experiencing PTSD symptoms, or a college student with a serious eating disorder. You will be able to recognize a coworker who may be struggling with addiction or a friend who is feeling depressed.”

The National Council urges every American to get trained. For more information on how you could help a friend or family member in need, check out:

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.