Meet the Team, Part 2: Rikke and Mark!

That’s right, it’s already time for the second installment of getting to know the MHFACO staff. Rikke is really excited to get to know you through this blog, and looks forward to writing about stigma and normalizing mental illness, as well as how mental health intersects with faith, work family, and all other areas of life. Mark is a passionate former teacher who can’t wait to start connecting with you through his posts on behavioral health in schools. Don’t forget to add your email at the right and click “Follow” to get an email each time a new post goes up. Someday, it could be YOUR post if you connect with us by being a guest blogger. In the meantime, get to know Rikke and Mark!


Name: Rikke Siersbaek

Role: Program Associate

Hometown: Odense, Denmark

Favorite color: Green

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? I joined MHFACO in 2012 because I love our mission and loved the idea of helping the organization grow. I also was attracted to the idea of working for a statewide network to build and strengthen strategic collaborations with partners in the field. I am very proud of what we have accomplished so far and look forward to where we will go next.

What is your favorite part about working here? I love connecting with our partners across the state and getting to hear about the great people who are teaching Mental Health First Aid all across Colorado. I am so impressed with the work that each of our wonderful instructors do and find it inspiring and motivating to be supporting their efforts.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: I use MHFA strategies all the time in my personal and professional life. The course has given me an awareness of the prevalence of mental illness and the many different ways it impacts people. And it has grown both my empathy for other people as well as given me a set of tools to intervene when I see someone struggling. Often a few words to show you care is enough to start a conversation. Specifically, I have used the tools to refer people to professional help and have offered self-care suggestions many times.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be?: To be able to sense when someone needs a hug and fly there.


Name: Mark Lanning

Role: School-Based Specialist

Hometown: Parker, CO

Favorite color: Yellow

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado?  After working as a teacher for several years, I found that even though I could have the best lesson plan in the world, it wasn’t effective if my student’s didn’t come to school prepared to learn. Although I tried to assist students with mental health diagnosis, I had no formal training. YMHFA allows me go give back to new teachers what I wished I would have had. As one who has a personal connection to mental health, MHFACO also has given me a chance to heal by contributing to the success of students.

What is your favorite part about working here? Beyond making a difference in my career? MHFACO has an excellent workplace culture and one of the best teams I have ever worked with. The staff is very supportive of each other’s projects and we even manage to laugh often.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies:  Recently, a friend of a friend was experiencing suicidal intensity. My friend was eager to help but had minimal training in mental health or crisis intervention. Although unconventional, I was able to assist her in using the YMHFA strategies via text message. Perhaps the most important but often overlooked step is to Give Reassurance and Information. I reminded my friend that she should thank her friend for opening up, reassure her that trained professionals are available to assist, and that it is normal to feel overwhelmed after a tragedy. Although she would have intervened anyway, MHFA assisted my friend in being a much more effective assister.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be? I would make him have super stretch limbs. Who wouldn’t love to see Stretch Armstrong 2.0?


Meet the Team, Part 1: Tony and Britta!

We’ve been told that “Happy Monday” is somewhat of an oxymoron, but we here at the Be a Lifeline blog beg to differ. Why, you might ask? A fair question, especially after such a beautiful weekend in Colorado. Well for us, Monday means that we get to connect with awesome people like you through this blog and in our communities. We were blown away by your response to our launch last week, and we’ve already received posts from guest bloggers! Please keep them coming – we’re so excited to make room for these important conversations and to get to know you better.

In the same spirit, we think it’s only fair if we tell you a little bit about us, too. To get us started, we’d like to introduce you to Tony Barkey and Britta Johnson! In his posts, Tony will mostly write about big picture updates and new information from MHFACO. Look for his next blog on Monday, April 27th! Britta is keeping her overall posting theme a secret for now, so be sure to tune in on Monday, May 4th to find out. Already wondering how to keep track of all these dates? No problem, we’ve got you covered. Just click the “Follow” button at the right and we’ll send you an email when a new post drops.


Name: Tony Barkey

Role: MHFACO Statewide Program Coordinator

Hometown: Madrid, Iowa

Favorite color: Carolina blue

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? I went into public health, because quite simply I wanted to help others. I have been fortunate enough to work in many fields with excellent teams, yet it felt like the difference I was making was towards the far end of the prevention spectrum. I started searching for common themes and elements that would allow me to feel like I was working further upstream. The more I searched, the clearer it became that the work of CBHC and MHFACO was exactly what I was looking for.

Importantly, the timing also seems right. We are already able to have more open discussions than we were even five years ago. Thus, there is immense potential to shape the ongoing dialogue around mental health and substance abuse issues. It is just an exciting time to be part of this team!

What is your favorite part about working here? Many places stress that they walk the walk. This organization and the MHFACO team actually backs it up daily. It is amazing to work in an environment that truly stresses wellness and health as total mind and body connection. I am consistently impressed and feel blessed to be surrounded by dedicated professionals that all believe in the ability to change the conversation around mental health issues.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: I think the best part about our programming, is that there is no secret formula. In many ways what we talk about is common sense, however having an action plan, supercharges your intuition and provides a framework during tough times. I don’t want to single anyone out so I won’t list a specific instance. Instead, I have generally found that truly listening without bias and not trying to come up with answers has been a wonderfully powerful tool.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be? I would give him the power to be the world’s best dancer. I mean who wouldn’t listen to a koala that can seamlessly move from the sprinkler to popping and locking, all while proving advice on how to help yourself and loved ones?


Name: Britta Johnson

Role: Implementation Specialist

Hometown: New Lenox, IL

Favorite color: Orange

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? I was drawn to MHFA Colorado immediately when I saw their dedication and passion to breaking down mental health stigmas and barriers in community through education and advocacy.  Working to create systems and environments that better support those going through a mental health crisis was extremely important to me and a huge passion of mine.  After meeting the amazing staff at MHFA Colorado and CBHC, I knew this organization was a perfect fit for me.

What is your favorite part about working here?  We have an extremely dedicated staff and partnerships in our communities that are all passionate about MHFA Colorado’s vision and mission.  Getting to work with a variety of people and organizations to better support Colorado’s mental health initiatives is inspiring.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies:  A friend of mine was experiencing some difficult life changes that affected them deeply.  They found themselves not able to do things they once loved doing and overall they felt lost.  I listened non-judgmentally, assured them of my support, and normalized their feelings.  I also offered to help them find additional resources that might better support them as they worked through their new normal.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be?  The ability to make anyone laugh by having a secret screen display “sneezing panda” and “viral cat” videos at a moments notice.

We’ve grown to a new home!

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After several coats of paint, a few trips to the hardware store, and some dedicated hours assembling furniture, Mental Health First Aid Colorado (MHFACO) has officially opened our doors at our new location in Lakewood, CO!

Why, you may ask, did we move? A good question. Over the last few months, we’ve had incredible growth here at MHFACO, expanding from a team of two to a team of SEVEN. Although it was a good team bonding experience to rotate and share desks, we’re excited to have a little bit more space to move around. Even more importantly, we’re excited that this move and team expansion will mean more opportunities to interact with YOU, our Mental Health First Aid Colorado community.

One way we want to do this is through our new blog, where you now find yourself! We hope to get to know you a little better and to provide an opportunity for you to get to know us too. Each MHFACO staff member will blog on a rotating basis, which we will post every Monday. Let’s be honest, we’re all looking for something to prolong the weekend a little bit, and what better way to do so than catching up with your favorite MHFACO staff members? We’re going to kick off our staff posts with a fun “Get to Know You” interview with each team member over the next three weeks. Be sure to click the “Follow” button on the right to make sure you never miss a new post.

That being said, our staff posts are only a small part of what we want this blog to be—that’s where you come in. We want to hear from YOU as a guest blogger.  Yes, we’re talking to you.  Not sure you feel entirely confident in your writing skills? No problem, we’re looking for best effort, not perfection. Not sure you have a story worth sharing? We respectfully disagree – the story you have is one that we want to hear. Not sure you have the time? Don’t worry, we won’t ask you to write a novel.

If you’re now sufficiently curious, take a peek at our “Style Guide” tab to see what we’re looking for in these guest blog posts. Then, when you’re ready, click the “Share a Story” tab to submit your post. Whether you’re a course participant, a mental health professional, a MHFA or YMHFA instructor or administrator, a caring community member, or somewhere in between all of these, we want to hear from you. Your voice is powerful in our continued mission to break down the stigma around mental health and substance use challenges.

In addition to these blog posts, we hope that you’ll feel comfortable to provide us with feedback on how we can better serve you.  Head on over to the “Ask Us” tab to send us feedback – we’ll do our best to reply in a very timely way. Also if there’s a topic you really want to know more about, let us know and we’ll work hard to find an expert in that area to write a blog post.

We’re so excited to kick off this blog, and we really look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to explore the rest of this website—it’s still Monday, after all. Don’t forget to click that “Follow” button on the right, and look out for our first “Get to Know You” post next Monday!