Meet the Team, Part 6: Jacinta!

Name: Jacinta Lisauskaite

Role: Youth Mental Health First Aid Liaison

Hometown: Alytus, Lithuania

Favorite colors: white, sand color, coral

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? I remember the day when I came back from school, laid down on my bed, and stared at the ceiling for hours. It was a new experience for a highly motivated, active, and studious seventeen year old. Mental health was a taboo topic in Eastern Europe in those days. My friends, relatives, and teachers did not understand what was happening to me and as depression symptoms worsened, they stepped back in fear, discomfort, and helplessness, which in turn worsened my condition. I could not even put a name to that which was destroying my life. I promised myself that if I ever get better, I would help others. It was only when I found hope through faith that I started moving towards recovery. Five years later, I am a completely different person, and I want to help others who are going through pain that I experienced when I was a youth.

Over the last couple of years, I worked with youth as an outdoor leader where I learned how to work with groups. In college, I studied psychology and pursued activities that helped me to gain a deeper understanding of myself and others.

What is your favorite part about working here? My experience working with the MHFACO staff has been great since the first day I met them. It is wonderful to work with people who are passionate and motivated to make a difference in others’ lives. I feel very blessed to be around professionals who are very supportive of my goals and are willing to invest their time and energy to see me develop and succeed.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: Recently, one of my close relatives was visiting town. Instead of my natural response to react to relational tension, I was able to respond with non-judgmental listening and kindly affirm their thoughts and emotions. I am very thankful for the valuable skills taught in YMHFA and how I can use them in my daily life.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be? ALGEE could sense, interpret, and help a person identify their emotions.

Jacinta_PicJacinta works to support CBHC’s MHFACO Initiative, and for the Central Colorado Area Health Education Center (CCAHEC) as a Youth Mental Health First Aid Liaison and AmeriCorps volunteer. She looks forward to contributing to the blog by interviewing MHFA Instructors and mental health service providers in Colorado, as well as sharing more about her experience.





Life a Garden, Dig it!

Hi, I am John Bayer the new Youth Mental Health First Aid Liaison. After a year working as a carpenter, I’ve decided to re-explore my passion for volunteer work which has led me to my current position as an AmeriCorps member.  I like to hike, play tennis, and cook (just to name a few things).  In this blog, I hope to share what I am passionate about and how these things have helped me to live a healthy (both mentally and physically) and fulfilling life.

Gardening BlogWhen I moved out to Colorado and was stressed about starting a new job and living in an unfamiliar place, I wasn’t surprised when (with a little thought and less deliberation) I started to garden again.
On the twentieth floor, in my high-rise apartment, I painted a clay pot, bought a bag of soil, shook off the dirt from my first blunder with tomatoes, and resumed gardening.

At the beginning of this summer, I decided to try my hand at gardening. My friend Joe told me that growing things was easy.  All you had to do was buy a few tomato plants and bags of soil and voila, your very own garden.  After buying a few tomato plants and bags of soil (and a few other boring steps we can just fast-forward through), I was pleased to find that I did in fact have my own garden.

Now that I was a full-fledge gardener, I did what any good gardener would do; I watered my plants and watched them grow. And grow they did until a windy night came along and snapped my poor tomato plants right in half.  As you can imagine, I was devastated.  I had invested a solid month watering and pulling weeds.  I watched as the plants doubled in size and sprouted little green tomatoes, only to wake up one morning to find the broken plants.

Gardening wasn’t a complete waste of time though.  While I might have missed out on a few tomatoes, gardening was still a positive experience.  It gave me something to look forward to when I came home from work.  Unlike a chore, gardening gave back.  Watering and pulling weeds wasn’t another dish that had to be scrubbed or room to be cleaned.  It was being outside in the sun, getting my hands dirty, and feeling proud as my plants grew each day.

My challenge to you is (if interested): I recommend you look into gardening as a stress relief and coping strategy too. Gardening isn’t an answer to any problem you might be experiencing, just a fun activity that you might want to consider.   After all, growing things is easy, you just need a few seeds and a bag of soil.

If you do end up gardening or already do, share with us a picture of your garden on Facebook.  I’ll be sure to do the same!

We want YOU…to become a MHFA Instructor!

It could not POSSIBLY be August already. Where has the time gone? From all of us here at the Be a Lifeline blog, we hope you have been enjoying this beautiful (albeit fast) Colorado summer as much as we have. Of course, summer isn’t over yet, but we’re already starting to think towards the future. More specifically, YOUR future. Even more specifically, your future as an Adult Mental Health First Aid instructor.

Seriously though, we’re talking to YOU. Do you to make a difference in your community? Do you want to increase education and decrease stigma surrounding mental health? Do you want to be a part of a network of incredible individuals doing exactly that all across Colorado, the US, and the world? If you answered yes to ANY of those questions, please keep reading to learn about how you could become a Mental Health First Aid instructor NEXT WEEK. This is NOT a drill. Read on.

Mental Health First Aid Colorado is excited to announce an additional Instructor Training opportunity this August 10th-14th.  Mental Health First Aid Colorado is pleased to solicit individuals interested in the strategic expansion of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in their communities. MHFA is a groundbreaking, internationally recognized evidence-based training program to help citizens identify mental health and substance abuse problems, connect individuals to care, and safely de-escalate crisis situations if needed. The Adult MHFA course trains adults assisting other adults.

The MHFA Instructor training is held over five days and is taught by two authorized MHFA trainers connected to at least one of the Mental Health First Aid – USA Authorities. Only participants who have been present for the entire 5-day training will be considered for certification as instructors. Unless, a participant is a current Instructor for the Youth MHFA curriculum, they will only be required to attend the first 2.5 days of training to become certified as an Instructor for the Adult MHFA curriculum.

Key Information:
Dates: August 10th-14th
Time: 8:30a-5:00p Monday-Friday
Location: Sungate Kids (Denver Metro)
Cost: $1,500 per participant
Application: All interested parties must submit and complete the application to be considered eligible. Click here to download the application.

This solicitation process was designed to support individuals who have opportunities to reach out to populations (first responders; government; deaf and hard of hearing; criminal justice; schools; at risk populations, etc) in their community and demonstrate a clear commitment to the mission and values of the Mental Health First Aid initiative.  Preference will be given to candidates who have not had the opportunity to receive MHFA/YMHFA Instructor trainings through their organization or association. All individuals will be asked to complete an application (see attached) to ensure they meet National criteria for Instructors.

If you, or individuals from your community, are interested, please contact Tony Barkey at or by calling 720-573-3590.

MHFA Colorado

Dealing with Loss

For my series, I’ll be talking about my own personal stories, as well as any stories people are willing to share with us. I wanted to start off with a very touching, but very sad story. I have a friend who I’ve known since middle school. My friend had her sister die by suicide last year. It was a very rough time for my friend and her family, and they are all still trying to cope with it. She went through a very rough stage. There were days that her friends and family was worried about her own safety. One day, she took off all her pictures and information on her social media sites, and turned all her profile pictures to a black screen. She posted a very emotional poem about her sister and her emotions concerning her sister’s death.

She then disappeared. She wasn’t responding to any calls or text messages. She basically fell off the face of the earth. People were going to all of her usual hang outs and were setting up different areas to look for her. It was scary for everyone involved because no one knew for sure what was going on. She was gone for most of the day. Thankfully she eventually drove to her father’s house. She told him that she was not okay, and that she needed help. She has been going to therapy ever since. She has been doing things she enjoys more often now though. She is really into drawing and painting. She has even submitted some of her work into art galleries.


At the beginning of the year, there are all the award shows. This year’s Oscar winner for Best Animated Film was Big Hero 6. If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, you should! It is about a kid, Hiro, who meets Baymax. Baymax is an oversized robot that was made by Hiro’s older brother to help people. Hiro becomes friends with all his brother’s friends that he worked with at his school. It’s a very emotional movie; it will make you laugh and it’ll make you cry.


The reason I mention this movie is because my friend dedicated this movie to her sister after it won the Best Animated Film Award. Spoiler Alert!!! My friend felt like she was able to relate to the character of Hiro because Hiro’s brother dies in the movie. She understood what Hiro was going through in the movie. She knew what it felt like to lose a sibling to something that was out of their control. She was able to connect to Hiro as a character in ways I cannot. I think she would have liked a Baymax in her life too; to have someone there to help her get through a day, a week, a month. Like Hiro, my friend is continuing living her life as best she could. She still thinks about her sister, but understands that she needs to keep living her life in the best way she can. It is important to understand that you can keep living in the best way you can…

Photo credits can be found here and here

Alyssa Arnpriester is an intern at Mental Health First Aid Colorado. To hear more from Alyssa, check out her previous post here or enter your email into the Follow box at the right to stay up to date with the Be a Lifeline blog.

Meet the Team, Part 5: Alyssa!

As you’re getting settled into a brand new week, we have some exciting news to share with you – we have a new staff member here at MHFACO! We could think of no better way to start off a Monday morning than to introduce you to Alyssa, our awesome new intern. In her blog posts, she’ll be sharing stories of mental health and substance use. She’s excited to share her own stories, but she also wants to involve you, the readers. She wants to post your stories too, as she know there are many untold stories that should be shared. So, take a few minutes out of your morning to get to know Alyssa!


Name: Alyssa Arnpriester

Role: Intern

Hometown: Arvada, Colorado

Favorite color: Black

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? Reason 1: I think it is important to talk about mental health and illnesses. I would like to gain more knowledge on how to talk to both strangers and people who are close to me about mental health and illness. I want to be able to give people who are struggling with a mental health illness and drug abuse the resources they can use. Reason 2: I would like to help get the word out and that there are people and organizations that can help people who are struggling with mental illness. I do not like the stigma surrounding these topics. I think it is important to have conversations about them and to try to help people who may need it. Reason 3: I am majoring in criminal justice and psychology at UNC. I need an internship to complete my degree, and what better way to do it than here? I am not sure in what direction I want to go in at the moment. I am hoping I will find my direction here working at Mental Health First Aid Colorado.

What is your favorite part about working here? So far, everyone has been very nice and helpful. They are all willing to answer any questions I have and they are willing to help with any problems I may be having. It is great to have an opportunity to work with people who want to help people realize that it is okay to have depression, anxiety, bipolar, or any other mental health illness. I can’t wait to get started and be a part of the group.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: I have many friends and family members that have mental health and substance abuse issues. There is no one story that is more important than the next. Describing just one instance is almost impossible because I can share so many experiences.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be?  Ummm… I think it would be cool if it had the power to change into other animals, so it can turn into a person’s favorite animal when they are feeling low.

Behind the Scenes at MHFACO: News and Noteworthy Events

Hello LifeLiners, FirstAiders and anyone who accidentally ended up on our blog!

As a reminder, each month I will write about some big developments at Mental Health First Aid Colorado (MHFACO). Recently, we attended two major events. On May 19th, we had the annual Stepping Up for Our Communities Event to honor National Children’s Mental Health Day and National Mental Health Awareness Month. Then the following night, the team braved the weather at the Rockies game for Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council’s Night at the Rockies.

At the annual training event, we had over 90 individuals trained in-person in youth and adult MHFA and an additional 90 plus trained across the state at six different spoke events. A big thanks to Southeast Mental Health Group, Centennial Mental Health Center, AspenPointe, The Center for Mental Health and Jefferson Center for Mental Health for hosting spoke events across the state that day. The event also featured a fantastic keynote address from Curt Drennen, Outreach Program Manager, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, where he discussed stress and how the body and mind react to stressful situations.

During lunch, we all had the privilege to hear touching first hand stories from the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Youth Essay Contest first place (Sydney Lacy) and second place (Chris Maclean) winners, as well as Children’s Hospital Youth Action Board Member, Kelsey Briding. All three spoke eloquently about how mental illness had impacted their lives and through the telling of their stories, literally reduced stigma before our eyes. As a bonus, they will also be featured guest bloggers, along with the third place essay contest winner, Christopher Glenn Watterud.

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All in all, an amazing way to spend a Tuesday!

The next night, the team manned a booth at the Rockies game. Since we were playing the Philadelphia Phillies, we reached out to our partners at the Philadelphia Mental Health First Aid office to see if we could cross promote the event. We are proud to lead the efforts in Colorado, but it is important to remember that MHFA is a national movement and program. The team in Philly does some amazing work, and they came through and shared all kinds of informational giveaways and goodies. We even made a little wager on the outcome of the game.

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While it didn’t work out for us this time, we did get to meet a lot of fans and spread the word about our programs. As always, feel free to drop us a line at, check out the website at, or leave a comment below.

Tony Barkey is the Statewide Program Coordinator for Mental Health First Aid Colorado. To hear more from Tony, enter your email in the “Follow” box at the right or check out his earlier post here.

Trigger Warning: PTSD, Rape, and the Media

I remember vividly the first rape scene I saw on television. I was 9 years old, home alone surfing channels when I stumbled upon the incredibly disturbing, sexually violent scene. My hand was frozen on the remote, fearful of and in shock of the images on the screen. I could not understand why someone would do that to another person, or what that pain and violation must feel like. It was a kind of violence unknown to me, at the time. I remember being unable to sleep that night.

This past Monday, I was catching up on the current season of Game of Thrones. I’ve learned to expect plenty of fighting and the occasional beheading, so I try not to get too attached to characters. A more disturbing theme I’ve begun to notice throughout the show however, is the prevalence of rape.

This season alone has included multiple scenes of attempted or completed rape. Episode 6 “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” featured a highly disturbing scene in which Sansa Stark was raped by her new husband Ramsey. The scene passed the point of suggestive and left little to the imagination, showing Sansa’s clothes being torn off, panning out the final shot of the episode with the sounds of her struggle in the background as a servant looked on and watched. If that didn’t fill in the gaps enough for you, the following episode showed Sansa again covered in bruises and cuts.

Years later, I am reminded of the overwhelming feelings I felt as a 9 year old watching that scene. Only now, I watch with a personal understanding of what that violence looks and feels like. Even with the volume on mute, the scene left me distraught and disturbed. Once again I found myself unable to sleep, my mind reeling over emotions and memories.

Sexual violence is not new to Game of Thrones, however. Rape is normalized on the show, woven into the plotline as a tactic of war, a right of husbands and brothers, and demonstration of domination and ownership. Someone actually quantified sexual violence on the show, and totaled 50 instances of rape and 29 victims of sexual violence to date. Something about this particular incident really struck a chord with me.

Absent from the show are details of the survivor’s recovery, or legal or moral ramifications for the perpetrators or the victims. Instances of brutal violence are witnessed and seemingly forgotten about. Yet, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a reality for survivors of rape, with the chances stacked high at 50-90% (Population Reports: Ending Violence Against Women, 2000.)

The instances of sexual violence featured on the show are not explored in detail, integrated into character development, or examined more closely later, but rather exist as standalone events. Not only are these violent images reinforcing concepts of sexual objectification, domination and subversion, but they are triggering for survivors. Detailed and explicit sexually violent images—as well as sounds, sights, smells, stories, visuals– can remind a survivor of their assault and may elicit symptoms of PTSD. A more sensitive depiction of sexual violence is needed, and not just in Game of Thrones. Audiences must demand more from the media, to be thoughtful about the way sexual violence is used as entertainment and what effects it may have on real life survivors.

Megan Staudenraus is a Youth Mental Health First Aid Liaison at Mental Health First Aid Colorado. Be sure to read (or reread) her previous post here for more information on this important topic.