Rev. Candace Barron, the Senior Pastor at Beebe FUMC, proudly displays her certificate for Mental Health First Aid.

On Saturday, March 12, clergy and staff from FUMC Beebe, along with several community members, gathered for the first of several Adult Mental Health First Aid training sessions being sponsored by the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church’s 200,000 More Reasons initiative. As this initiative begins to incorporate Mental Health as a future focus, this groundbreaking skills-based course gives people the tools to identify, understand and respond to someone who might be struggling with a mental health or substance use challenge — and connect them with appropriate support and resources when necessary.

One in five Americans has a mental illness, and the pandemic has dramatically increased depression and anxiety, but many are reluctant to seek help or don’t know where to turn for care. Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and substance use problems can be difficult to detect. Friends and family members may find it hard to know when and how to step in. As a result, those in need of mental health services often do not receive care until it is too late.

Just as CPR helps even those without clinical training assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid prepares participants to interact with a person experiencing a mental health crisis. Mental Health First Aiders learn a 5-step Action Plan that guides them through the process of reaching out and offering appropriate support.

This course is ideal for anyone who works or supports people, whether in a professional or volunteer setting. It is also a wonderful opportunity for community outreach, as many in our local communities are looking for tools like this. Alongside the Adult Mental Health First Aid training, there is also a Youth module, designed for adults who support teens, and a Teen module, designed for teens to support their peers dealing with mental health challenges. The Youth and Young Adult Ministries of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church has trained over 60 youth workers in Arkansas with Youth Mental Health First Aid, and is in the process of completing the first Teen training.

For more information on signing up for training, or on bringing any of these training opportunities to your community, contact Amy Shores at amy.shores@arumc.org.