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 tbarkey@mhfaco.org. or by calling 720-573-3590.

Sincerely,
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.

bighero6

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.

hugs

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.

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.

koala

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!

koala2

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!

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.

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.

A Song in Your Head: Connecting Music and Mental Health

Okay, so here’s where we’re at. It’s Friday. Tomorrow starts a long weekend (for most). You’re feeling the afternoon slump. We’re with you. So, as your afternoon pick-me-up, take a few minutes to connect with Emily Haller, one of our Youth Mental Health First Aid Liaisons, on the connections between music and mental health! No cute dog photos here, but there may or may not be a song at the end to send you into the weekend.


Close your eyes. [Okay, so you’ll probably have to read the paragraph first before you close them, unless you’re taking a mini nap, which is totally cool too]. As you close your eyes, I want you to think of YOUR song. You know, the one that rattles around your head when you’re not thinking about anything else. The one that your coworkers probably know by heart too because you hum it all the time. The one you absentmindedly flip on when you can’t seem to shake a bad day. It’s okay if you’re thinking of several, as you might find that each situation calls for a specific set of tunes. A solo dance party as you’re getting ready in the morning might sound different than the end of a stressful day at work.

Try to play one of your selections in your head. If it helps, you can even turn it on in the background as you read. Now think: what is it that makes this my song? Maybe it was it the people you were with when you first heard it. Maybe you listened to it on repeat on your favorite trip. Maybe there is no specific reason except that it makes you smile every time. Regardless, it’s yours.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m asking you to think about music for a blog about mental health. That’s a fair question, as it might seem like a stretch. I promise, it’s a stronger connection than it might seem like at first. I studied music and psychology in college and I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of the two, especially the ability of music to impact and often improve a person’s psychological well-being.

Few things surround us or occupy our environment in the way music does. In fact, the average American spends over four hours a day listening to some form of audio. This probably isn’t surprising considering how quickly you came up with a song just a few moments ago. Music doesn’t have to just come out of a speaker either – think about the incredible music made by birds in the morning, rain hitting a roof, or waves crashing on the shore. It’s all around if you just listen.

Anecdotally, we could talk about the impact of music on our well-being all day. You know how much better you feel when that song comes on the radio. The most exciting part though? The research agrees. Music has been shown to benefit our physical and mental well-being in countless ways – everything from relieving stress and symptoms or depression to improving sleep quality. And, there’s even an entire field of study and practice dedicated to this important connection. According to the American Music Therapy Association, “music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals.” Using music to address the whole person, now how amazing is that? I agree, SO amazing.

Luckily, the benefits and importance of music are far too numerous to fit in one blog post, and I can’t wait to have more conversations with you about music and mental health. In the meantime, I challenge you to continue to find your music and find out why it’s yours. Whether it’s a music therapy session, a really beautiful bird call, or hearing your favorite song on the radio at the store (go ahead, dance in the aisle), it’s yours, and that’s what matters most.

And, in case you need a send-off to Saturday, here’s one that’s rattling in my head today. Plus, meaningful Colorado-filmed music videos are the best kinds of music videos. Happy Weekend!

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.