Smoky Mountain Center introduces mental health literacy program

Press release

From Smoky Mountain Center:

Smoky Mountain Center, in collaboration with the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC*) and Western North Carolina Health Network, is pleased to add up to thirty new instructors to the Mental Health First Aid team in a training session March 3-7, 2014 at the MAHEC Mary C. Nesbit Biltmore Campus.

The MHFA training course is designed to give members of the public key skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Through this program, conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health, new instructors will be certified to teach the 8-hour course to a variety of audiences. MHFA is one of several evidence-based programs Smoky Mountain Center provides to the community. The program is intended to identify opportunities for early intervention for individuals experiencing mental health concerns.

“We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid to our Western North Carolina communities,” said Elizabeth Flemming, MA, LPC, Continuing Education Planner at MAHEC. “Most people know how to recognize and appropriately react to medical emergencies, but there is little knowledge in the general public about what to do in a mental health crisis.”

“I’d like to see people as familiar with MHFA as they are with CPR,” states Carolyn Dorner, Quality Coordinator at WNC Health Network. “We need to know how to respond when our friends, family, coworkers and neighbors need help.”

Genny Pugh, Senior Director for Community Collaboration at Smoky, said, “Mental Health First Aid is one of several evidence based programs we provide in our communities. Offering Mental Health First Aid classes to citizens across our 23 county catchment supports wellness for individuals and families through early identification and intervention for mental health concerns.

“We’re enthused to welcome MAHEC as a partner in extending mental health first aid across the country” says Linda Rosenberg, MSW, president and CEO of the National Council. “We anticipate the new instructors will have a great impact on the mental health communities throughout Western North Carolina and will be key players in improving mental health literacy nationwide.”

More than 3,700 U.S. instructors are already certified by Mental Health First Aid USA (MHFA-USA)** as instructors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Instructors come from a variety of backgrounds, including behavioral healthcare, law enforcement and public safety, universities, faith communities and primary care. Included on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices, studies show that training in Mental Health First Aid builds confidence in helping an individual experiencing a mental health challenge, reduces negative or distancing attitudes towards individuals with mental illnesses, and increases mental health literacy – being able to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

Smoky Mountain Center manages mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual/developmental disability services in Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties in North Carolina. Access to services is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-849-6127.
*MAHEC was established in 1974 and is a leader in healthcare, education and innovation. Located in Asheville, MAHEC serves a 16-county region in Western North Carolina. It is the largest Area Health Education Center in North Carolina, which evolved to address national and state concerns with the supply, retention and quality of health professionals. MAHEC’s mission is to train the next generation of healthcare professionals for Western North Carolina through quality healthcare, innovative education, and best practice models that can be replicated nationally.

**Mental Health First Aid USA (MHFA-USA) is a collaboration between the National Council for Behavioral Health, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with our 2,000 member organizations, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than eight million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained nearly 100,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities.

About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

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