Years ago I had a vision. I wanted to be a part of a movement that changed the way we talk about mental health, mental illness, and people experiencing any type of challenge. Throughout my life and career, I had experienced all sorts of stigmas, misunderstandings, and misinformation around mental illness. I remember thinking to myself, “is that what people think about me?”
I have lived with a mental illness for the better part of my adult life, although on the outside, no one would be able to guess. Internally though, I have battled with my own demons for years. I’m not saying that I haven’t had good times; I’ve had plenty. Underneath the surface though, there has been a constant pull towards the darkness – my depression – named “Becky”.
It was my own challenges with mental illness that drove me into my current career. I’ve worked in the mental health field for a number of years and have continuously seen my own challenges, as well as a plethora more, echoed in others. I didn’t like the way I felt inside so I decided that I wanted to help others to never have to feel like that themselves. So I pursued a career in psychology.
Throughout those years, I was exposed to so many wonderful trainings, and clinical techniques that I really felt like I had the tools to make a difference with folks. Throughout each training I marveled at how I could use these new found skills to help the people I worked with. I would try Tactic A or utilize Skill B and suddenly, according to this trainer at least, the person would have a better life. But no matter how great the training was, I still felt something was missing. Not something all that big, but something small, and possibly overlooked.
In 2016 I was sent to learn another skill – Mental Health First Aid. I loaded up my family and took a trip out to Indy for 5 days. My wife, 2 small (2 year, and 6 month old) and I would live in the Holiday Inn Express while I learned how to teach some program that I never heard of. I was being sent to be a Mental Health First Aid Instructor by my employer for reasons unknown to me.
Day 1 – My life changed.
This was the missing key. The missing answer to that pestering question I had been asking myself for years. This was the set of skills that was going to change the world. See, Mental Health First Aid isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s specifically designed for anyone to be able to learn and apply these skills in their day-to-day lives or relationships. It was simple. It was effective. And it was backed by science and people with lived experience. People like me.
Day a-lot more later.
After training numerous people (nearly 2000) and numerous classes, I learned something. People feel the same way I did. They feel empowered to take action when they notice someone is struggling. They feel confident to be able to help a neighbor or a family member. They feel supported. They feel they are able to change lives.
My goal, in starting Mental Health First Aid Illinois, is to help people to change lives, by getting trained. I want MHFA to be as commonplace as CPR First Aid. And I want to be a part of your journey to do that.
I love teaching these skills to people. I love seeing them gain the confidence to help others. I love helping people recognize the power of recovery. I love seeing the conversation around mental health and mental illness change.
If you haven’t already, Get trained. Change lives.