Minnesota Hospital Association


January 23, 2018

Mental health training for every community

With mental health issues prevalent in every community, how do you meet the needs quickly?   

Since 2014, Fairview Health Services has offered the evidence-based Mental Health First Aid program to teach community members how to help someone in a mental health crisis, just as people would learn CPR to help when someone stopped breathing.   

To build capacity in short order, Fairview trained multiple staff and community members – 21 in all – to lead Mental Health First Aid courses within their communities in a culturally appropriate way. As a result, attendees feel more comfortable with talking about the topic and debunking the stigmas attached to mental health within their own communities.  

For Fairview’s Somali trainers, that means talking about mental health in ways that overcome language barriers. The Somali language doesn’t have a word that directly translates into the concept of ‘mental health.

For African-American trainers, it means sharing their own stories to overcome the stigma that mental health issues are a result of selfishness or a lack of religious faith.   

For Latino trainers, it means explaining that mental health issues are not a result of personal weakness or, for men, a lack of the cultural value of machismo.    

For trainers in rural communities, it means showing others how they can locate care that can be difficult to access and find the courage to seek treatment when they are vulnerable to small town gossip.    

To reach young people, it means training individuals who work with youth how to identify issues in adolescents and how to engage parents who may be hesitant to believe that their child has mental health challenges.   

In 2016 alone, 567 people were certified in Mental Health First Aid USA, a program created and managed by the National Council of Behavioral Health. Fairview conducted 28 classes in 2016 at a monetary value of $160,978.80. Fairview community health staff run the program with the help of 21 instructors, 13 of whom are Fairview staff in a variety of roles throughout the organization. To date, Fairview has certified more than 1,700 people in Mental Health First Aid, with dozens more classes planned for 2018.