Mental Health First Aid Colorado Happenings

We know, we know. Today is Wednesday, not Monday when you normally see a post from us. But, we could think of no better mid-week pick-me-up than to connect with you through this blog. You’re in need of a quick pick-me-up too? Great, we’re in good company.  Read on for some awesome updates from Tony Barkey. Spoiler alert: he’s included an adorable picture of his dog. This is not a drill, so you should probably keep scrolling.

Hi my name is Tony Barkey and I am the Statewide MHFACO Program Coordinator. You can learn a lot more about me if you click here. Each blog, I will try to share some of our higher level news and upcoming events. This month there are a couple of things that I really want to highlight. First, I would like to shamelessly try to grab your attention with a picture of my dog.


OK focus now. The first thing I wanted to do is promote the Stepping Up for Our Communities Event on Tuesday May 19th. This is a really cool event where we will train over 300 individuals in youth and adult Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). The event takes place at the Arapahoe Community College located at 5900 South Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, CO 80120. We have a lineup of great speakers, excellent food and of course the ability to become youth or adult MHFA certified. Oh and did I mention that the event is completely FREE. Not the type of free where you still end up having to buy a book, but really free and we will feed you and send you home with goodies. To register for the adult class, please click here. To register for the youth class please click here. The courses are for anyone that would like to learn more about mental health and substance abuse issues, and both give you an action plan to help yourself or someone else that is going through difficult times. The youth course is meant for adults working primarily with a youth audience. Similarly, the adult course is meant for adults working mostly with adults.

The next big piece of news is the new and improved registration system. Thank you all for your patience as the new system was coming to life. To check it out for yourself and to register for a course just visit On the homepage, you can use the filter in the top left to sort by the type of class (youth or adult), location of your preferred class and a date and time that works best for you. You can also use the arrows in the middle of the page to manually look by month. Finally, there is an ability to click list on the far right and you can view courses in chronological order.

Once you find a class that you are interested in, all you have to do is register. We will ask some basic demographic questions and you will complete a pre-course survey. Both are essential to the bigger picture of MHFACO. We are able to offer the course free of cost through multiple state and federal funding sources. Demographic information helps us know information about who is taking the course and more importantly where we need to do some targeted outreach. Rest assured, your information is secure and we will never share that with anyone else. Even though the course is nationally recognized and evidence based, the survey is still important to continuously build the case that the trainings work. It also helps us create a feedback loop to make constant improvements to the course.

After you complete your registration, you will receive email confirmation. Now all you need to do is come to the course for the day that you signed up and be ready to learn. If you have any questions about registering or anything else please feel free to reach me at


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?