You rock. We know. Let’s talk.

Alright, it’s time for some real talk. Well actually, since it’s the middle of the week, maybe it’s time for a really cute picture of a koala first.


Phew, okay, now it’s time for real talk. It’s hard to believe, but the Be a Lifeline blog is now in its fourth month of posting. We are so grateful to be able to share this important conversation space with you, our incredible readers and contributors. Through those four months, we’ve had remarkable guest bloggers, thoughtful staff posts, and engaging events, and we’re so lucky that you’re along for the ride.

Here’s where we’re at now – we need YOU. That’s right, we’re talking to you. No, not your coworker in the next cubicle or your neighbor down the street (although we’d love to talk to them too). You. Why, you might ask? Because we know you have something incredible to share about mental health. Maybe you’ve gleaned important knowledge from your professional life that others would benefit from learning too. Maybe you have lived experience with a mental illness or a mental health challenge and could help us understand that from your perspective. Maybe there’s something awesome going on in your community for mental health and wellness.

Whatever it might be, your voice is crucial to help move us forward in the continual pursuit of increasing education and understanding about mental health and decreasing the stigma and negative perceptions that hold all of us back.

So, here’s our charge: will you be a guest blogger? We can start small with just one post, and then you can decide if you want to keep writing. As long as it relates back to the overall purpose and goals of this conversation space, the sky is the limit on what you can talk about. You can even post anonymously if you’d rather not have your name floating out in cyberspace. If you’re not quite ready to share your story yet, we totally respect that. Just know that if and when you are, we’ll be right here, ready to listen (and read). If you are ready, head on over to the Share a Story tab to start creating your masterpiece now. We’re so excited to hear from you!

And finally, if you’re thinking, “Geez, I would really love to know more about ______________,” or “Wow, I would love to hear about someone else’s experience with ______________,” we want to know! We’ll do our best to find someone with that kind of expertise or experience to share with you. Send us your question or topic idea at the bottom of this page, and we’ll get back to you soon.

Okay, okay – one more koala just for good measure. Happy Wednesday!



Listening to Hear

One question I love to ask fellow therapists is “How is change created?” Ultimately, it is this question that drives every encounter we have, not only in our profession, but in our personal lives as well. The individual’s answer to this question reveals their world view and personal beliefs about who we are and what we desire as humans. It gets the conversation to a deep level pretty quickly!

Many theories on change that we are taught in school boil down to focusing on either a person’s decision making and problem solving strategies, or changing their thought processes to change their behavior. Essentially, if we think positive thoughts, we act well. In response, acting well and getting positive results, increases our positive thoughts. Images of Peter Pan encouraging happy thoughts in order to fly come to mind.

It was in the trenches, once outside of academia, where I found greater clarity regarding change. I experienced that the greatest driver of motivation- and what we are all seeking- is to be heard, understood, and accepted. When those things are achieved, we tend to feel safer, less anxious, less depressed, and have an increase in positive social interactions. It goes a step beyond strategizing the change, and actually provides an experience in which the change and safety is felt in real time in the relationship.

For this reason, my favorite section of MHFA is non-judgmental listening. When presenting to a class, I talk about how this is foundational in approaching the individual and for encouraging engagement both in the moment and in future encounters the person may have with other professionals. I also share how incredibly difficult it is to do well.

In such encounters, we need to:

Monitor and set aside our own desires and goals

Be aware of what we communicate verbally and non-verbally

Be accepting of the individual’s experience of reality without judgment

Monitor and respond the individual’s verbal and non-verbal communications

Be aware of the other environmental factors within and around the crisis

All at the same time!

Without listening- and really hearing- we lose the most powerful tool in our belt. It is the hub from which all other interventions emerge, and the foundation upon which we build safe relationships. On the spectrum of interventions, listening is not just a small introduction into treatment, it is treatment.

Evan Page

Evan Page has specialized in providing therapy for families and teens struggling with trauma, attachment disorder, and mood regulation issues. Evan is currently a therapist with North Range Behavioral Health, serving as the School-Based Engagement Specialist.

The Be a Lifeline blog is so grateful to have Evan as one of our amazing guest bloggers. Be sure to check out his previous posts here and here. Want to learn more about how YOU can become a guest blogger like Evan? Head on over to the Share a Story page now!

What do the behaviors we see in our students mean? Part 2

We’re guessing you were waiting for it, so here it is: Part 2 of Evan Page’s post about the behaviors we see in our students! In case you want a refresher, here’s where you can find Part 1. Thanks again, Evan!

I spent a few years working at a specialized residential treatment center. Our typical student had been struggling significantly in the home and at school. They had bounced from outpatient therapy to other residential centers and wilderness boot camps before coming to us. To get to that level of care, the behaviors have to be really rocking the boat especially in terms of relationships.

The students worked hard to keep distance between themselves and people who tried to help- and they were very good at it. Cussing, disrespect, and a general “screw you” attitude was fairly pervasive and, if you allowed yourself to get caught up in the onslaught on the surface, it would be easy to become hardened and resentful, building your own walls for protection.

However, I was able to avoid that trap each time by remembering their history and looking at the background that formed their lens. Abandonment, abuse, and neglect and the earliest of ages, when their lens was most vulnerable, formed a worldview that people were unsafe– even, and especially, those that said they wanted to help.

I share this to clean up your lens a bit. To wipe off that little smudge left by a former collogue, student, or bully from your past and to allow a clearer picture of what is happening. Our clients, students, and families are hurting in our communities. They have difficult home lives, lots of stress, little support, and feel insecure about who they are and their value to us. When we are able to have a clear understanding, we can have a softer heart and a more gentle approach. And that is what they really need.

Evan Page has specialized in providing therapy for families and teens struggling with trauma, attachment disorder, and mood regulation issues. Evan is currently a therapist with North Range Behavioral Health, serving as the School-Based Engagement Specialist.

What do the behaviors we see in our students mean? Part 1

In the continued celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, we would like to celebrate a very special day today — May 7, 2015 is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! And, we could think of no better way to celebrate than by introducing our first guest blogger — Evan Page, the School-Based Engagement Specialist at North Range Behavioral Health. This post is part one of a two-part series, so be sure to check in next Thursday to see part two. Thank you, Evan!

While negative behaviors may be concerning in and of themselves, it is important to remember that they are beacons, sending out pings of hidden distress. Tracking the signal backwards, behaviors we see are indicators of a hidden issue- a cause behind the symptoms. As community leaders and MHFA instructors, you have a fantastic view of behavior and, if you know what it translates to, you have a great head start toward deeper empathy for the people in your sphere of influence and you will be able to experience better self-care.

We are constantly communicating with ourselves, giving internal feedback for every action we take. The way we speak to ourselves is determined by how we view ourselves and the world. Different people will have different perceptions of the same situation as a result of how they take in and process information.

We can’t process all the information that happens in an event, so we subconsciously pick out bits and pieces that seem important and categorize them in our mind. What we select and categorize is heavily influenced by our past experiences and forms our beliefs.

The central belief about who we think we are (acceptable vs. unacceptable) is reflected in what we say in this inner dialogue. That dialogue then naturally flows out into our behaviors. Someone who constantly berates herself is going to act differently than the person who is happy and content with who she is.

Early life events — Beliefs — Inner dialogue — Behaviors

We all see life through a lens and no one has a crystal clear, unbiased picture of interactions in which we partake or events that we witness. We have smudges, cracks, and dust on the glass between us and the world as a result of our past. For a young man who has had traumatic experiences on the battlefield, a situation that may be harmless to others may send him into a flashback. The idea of the holidays arriving may bring up feelings of joy and excitement for some people, while dread and weariness fill others depending on the damage that has been done to their lens in past experiences, and the effectiveness of efforts to repair that damage.

So behaviors mean that something is going on beneath the surface– no surprise there. Having the knowledge of exactly what is going on is where you personally benefit.

(part two continued next week)

Evan Page has specialized in providing therapy for families and teens struggling with trauma, attachment disorder, and mood regulation issues. Evan is currently a therapist with North Range Behavioral Health, serving as the School-Based Engagement Specialist.

Meet the Team, Part 4: Brian!

Ready for the weekend? Looking for a little afternoon break? We’re with you. And don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Just sit back and relax as we introduce you to the final member of our team, Brian! He’s keeping the overall theme of his blog posts a secret for now, so be sure to add your email to the “Follow” box on the right so you never miss a post.

We have loved sharing our stories with you these past few weeks, but now we want to get to know YOUR story through guest blogging. Still not sure what you’ll write about? No problem, we’ll be patient. And in the meantime, head on over to the Style Guide tab to see what we mean by guest blogging. Spoiler alert: you won’t find “professional writer” anywhere in our list of requirements. (Although if you are a professional writer, we’d love to hear from you too!) For now, take that short afternoon break and learn a little bit about Brian Turner!


Name: Brian Turner

Role: Director

Hometown: Denver

Favorite color: Blue

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? I started at the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council (CBHC) back in 2008. CBHC is a membership organization that represents the statewide network of community mental health providers and behavioral health managed care companies. I hadn’t been there long before some of our members started talking about this cool new program called Mental Health First Aid. I remember one Board of Directors meeting in particular where Dr. Carl Clark, CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver, was enthusiastically urging everyone to work together to help grow MHFA across the state. Folks were sold pretty quick and we decided to go all-in on.

George Delgrosso, CBHC’s Chief Executive Officer for the past 15 years, put his visionary mind – and me – to work. What started with him and I just throwing around ideas slowly turned into what we have today – an incredible team at CBHC running the MHFA Colorado initiative with the support of hundreds of partner organizations, 15,000+ certified MHFAiders, and so much more to come.

What is your favorite part about working here? The mission is a given. It’s what drives me every day. But knowing that I’m working with a team of people who share that drive is my favorite part.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: I use ALGEE all the time, but I think the most underrated part of MHFA and YMHFA is the impact it has on us, as MHFAiders, to improve our own lives. I took the course thinking I would learn how to help my friends, family members, peers, etc. The truth is it has probably had a greater effect on my own health than anyone else I’ve connected with. In MHFA we are taught to listen to others non-judgmentally, but how often do we afford ourselves that same consideration? I’ve learned to use MHFA to cut myself some slack. To address how I’m feeling without judgment. To empower myself.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be? Laser eyes. I just like the visual.

Meet the Team, Part 3: Megan and Emily!

Staring out the window at that bright blue sky?  Nursing a bit of a sunburn? Must be Monday after a beautiful weekend in Colorado**. That means that it’s the best time here at Mental Health First Aid Colorado because we can introduce you to two more of our team! This week, we want you to meet Megan and Emily. Megan looks forward to engaging with you through her blog posts on trauma and mental health, and Emily can’t wait to talk with you about mental health and the arts. So go ahead, grab that second cup of coffee and take a break for a few minutes on us. Maybe as you read, you’ll even start thinking about what YOU might want to write about in a guest blog post.

**(If you’re not in Colorado, we’re sorry. It’s a pretty cool place, and you’re always welcome here – please visit soon! Until then, we’re sending good weather vibes your way.)


Name: Megan Staudenraus

Role: Youth Mental Health First Aid Liaison

Hometown: Shelter Island, NY

Favorite color: Purple

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? The Mental Health First Aid course and Colorado initiative was unlike anything I’d heard of. After learning more about the MHFA curriculum, the Colorado initiative’s goals, as well as the testimonials about its impact, I knew it was exactly the kind of direct service program that I was interested in getting involved in. The opportunity to initiate and lead conversations around mental health in the community really drew me in. As someone who often thinks in terms of “the big picture,” I saw MHFACO as a leader on the forefront of a broader sociocultural movement to change the way that we view, treat, and respond to mental illness and wanted to contribute to those efforts.

What is your favorite part about working here? The MHFACO team is so wonderful to work with. Everyone is incredibly dedicated to the issue of behavioral health, and so supportive of each other’s visions and goals. Teaching the classes and doing outreach presentations about the course has been exceedingly rewarding as well. Hearing feedback from participants that they feel better informed, more aware, and better able to help themselves or others with a mental health challenge, is such an incredible gift to be able to offer someone. Being an instructor in this program has also opened the door for others in my life to talk more openly about their or their loved ones mental health concerns. I’m truly honored to help start those difficult conversations, and to be able to better support those individuals.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: A friend of mine recently was experiencing some serious medical complications. This person also had a history of mental illness, and the physical symptoms and disorders were eliciting and exacerbating their underlying anxiety and depression symptoms. Through listening, empathizing, and offering reassurance, I was able to help that individual calm down in a moment of panic and anxiety. We even talked through some self-help strategies to mitigate both the distressing physical and psychological symptoms they were experiencing, and also discussed the potential benefits of seeking professional help to better cope with the recent changes.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be?  Healing koala bear-hugs!


Name: Emily Haller

Role: Youth Mental Health First Aid Liaison

Hometown: Centennial, CO

Favorite color: Blue

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? I took a Mental Health First Aid course as part of an internship during college and was amazed by its ability to start positive conversations about mental health in our communities. I very much wanted to be a part of an organization committed to strengthening those conversations, and saw MHFACO as such a place. I feel so lucky to be a part of this team and to teach Youth Mental Health First Aid, because I think these courses empower both adults and young people to “own” their personal mental health and to validate and accept themselves for exactly who they are.

What is your favorite part about working here? I’d say my favorite thing is witnessing the impact that MHFA and YMHFA courses have in Colorado. I love hearing from instructors, participants, and other organizations about how these courses encourage them to stand up for mental health and to make a difference in their own families, circles, and communities. I also love working with the MHFACO team, who are beyond dedicated to furthering this mission. Also, rumor has it that we observe National Pancake Day, so there’s that too.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: On a few occasions, I’ve needed to “Ask the Question” of whether or not someone was thinking of killing themselves. From my training as a mental health first aider, I knew that I needed to ask, because it’s the only way to know for sure. The course gave me the confidence to know that I could say those words out loud and be ready for any response. More than anything, the YMHFA strategies have encouraged me to be a more compassionate, engaged listener and to be present in each conversation.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be? Flying, hands down. It would be SO cool.

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?