On May 18th, 2017 Rebekah Leon, Associate Executive Director, at the Mental Health Association in Passaic County received the 2017 Advocate of the Year Award for at the Mental Health Awareness Dinner, which was hosted by Paterson Stigma-Free. We are very proud of her and she so deserved this award because of her dedication and advocacy in mental health for the past 28 years. 17 of those years has been with the Mental Health Association in Passaic County! She is committed to providing support and education to the community and the clients she serves. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and is a Certified Social Worker, a Disaster Response Crisis Team Leader and a Mental Health First Aid USA Instructor. She is the Passaic County Mental Health Crisis Intervention Training Coordinator and has been instrumental in training over 300 law enforcement personnel throughout the county. She has been a featured presenter at state, national and international conferences about parents who have a psychiatric diagnosis and their children, peer supervision and support services. She has participated on a variety of committees, task forces and advisory groups. Rebekah considers herself fortunate to have worked for organizations and collaborated with others who share her belief that recovery is possible and opportunities can be made when people come together.
The event was organized by the Paterson Stigma-Free and Growing in Grace Counseling Center under the leadership of Sharrieff Bugg and his devoted group of volunteers. Their group is dedicated to bringing awareness about mental health issues, acting as a liaison in providing access to professional counseling services and promoting suicide prevention.
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The Mental Health Association in Passaic County is launching a major initiative to bring Mental Health First Aid training to Passaic County as part of the countywide End The Stigma Campaign. “We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid to our community,” said Joanne Green, Executive Director, Mental Health Association in Passaic County. “This important educational effort goes a lot further than emergency intervention; it really helps people understand the shroud of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and addiction. It will help rid this community of the associated stigma and move more and more people toward recovery.”
MHFA is an evidence-based, internationally recognized program. Similar to traditional First Aid and CPR, Mental Health First Aid is help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a crisis until professional treatment is obtained or the crisis resolves.
Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental illnesses, builds understanding of their impact, and overviews common supports. This 8-hour course uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to offer initial help in a mental health crisis and connect persons to the appropriate professional, peer, social, and self-help care. The program also teaches the common risk factors and warning signs of specific types of illnesses, like anxiety, depression, substance use, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.
Mental Health First Aid is included on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).
Mental Health First Aid teaches participants a five-step action plan, ALGEE, to support someone developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis:
Assess for risk of suicide or harm
Give reassurance and information
Encourage appropriate professional help
Encourage self-help and other support strategies
Like CPR, Mental Health First Aid prepares participants to interact with a person in crisis and connect the person with help. First Aiders do not take on the role of professionals — they do not diagnose or provide any counseling or therapy. Instead, the program offers concrete tools and answers key questions, like “what do I do?” and “where can someone find help?” Certified Mental Health First Aid instructors provide a list of community healthcare providers and national resources, support groups, and online tools for mental health and addictions treatment and support. All trainees receive a program manual to compliment the course material.
Mental Health First Aid was introduced in the U.S. in 2008 and, to date, more than 100,000 people from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have taken the course. The course is offered to a variety of audiences, including hospital staff, employers and business leaders, faith communities, and law enforcement . In 2012, a Spanish adaptation of the course was released.
In 2012, Youth Mental Health First Aid was introduced to prepare trainees to help youth ages 12-18 that may be developing or experiencing a mental health challenge. The youth course is most appropriate for adults who regularly interact with youth, such as teachers or coaches, but may also be appropriate for youth who are 16 years and older.
More Information and How to Request a Training for Your Organization
The eight-hour Mental Health First Aid certification course may be offered on-site at an organization or facility over two four-hour sessions. To ask about scheduling a MHFA training for your organization, staff or volunteers in Passaic County or for more information about Mental Health First Aid training please contact Rebekah Leon, MHFA Coordinator for the MHAPC, at: rleon @mhapassaic.org or call 973-478-4444Ext:16