Mental Health First Aid brings hope, change to inmates

mental-health-first-aid-coloradoA few months ago I received a grant to become a certified Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor. The week-long training was intense, heart-breaking and eye-opening. It was heart-breaking to consider the fact that 1 in 5 young people between the ages of 13 and 18 have, or will develop a serious mental health condition ( These conditions are real, and deserve our respect and understanding – especially for young people as they are finding their identities and developing a sense of self-worth in those vulnerable years.

Not understanding or honoring the mental health challenges faced by so many young people often leads to the development of more serious mental health issues in adulthood. Here are some eye opening statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

  • Nearly a quarter of both State prisoners and jail inmates who had a mental health problem, compared to a fifth of those without, had served 3 or more prior incarcerations.
  • Female inmates had higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates (State prisons: 73% of females and 55% of males; Federal prisons: 61% of females and 44% of males; local jails: 75% of females and 63% of males).
  • Over 1 in 3 State prisoners, 1 in 4 Federal prisoners, and 1 in 6 jail inmates who had a mental health problem had received treatment since admission.

Meet ALGEE, the official MHFA mascot! (also a convenient way to remember the MHFA acronym: Assess for risk of harm; Listen compassionately; Give reassurance; Engage with the individual to seek professional help; Encourage positive coping strategies)

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a program designed to teach everybody the basics of what mental health conditions might look like, and concrete ways that anyone who sees someone in a mental health crisis can help. I recently came across this CNN report about how MHFA is changing prison culture by reducing stigma, and helping inmates who suffer from mental health issues to understand the spectrum of mental health disorders, and to fearlessly, compassionately engage with their fellow inmates who are struggling with bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. Click on the link below, watch the 2 minute video, and tell us what you think!

Learn more about Mental Health First Aid, find a course in your area, or become an instructor by visiting the Mental Health First Aid website!

The Holistic Homestead will be presenting Youth Mental Health First Aid courses in the Colorado Rockies soon...stay tuned!

The Holistic Homestead will be presenting Youth Mental Health First Aid courses in the Colorado Rockies soon…stay tuned!

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