Mental illness affects 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—nearly 44 million people–every year. Yet, far too many—up to two-thirds—go without treatment. In part, this is due to a knowledge gap. A majority of people, including parents, teachers, first responders and friends, simply do not know the signs of mental illness or how to help someone facing a mental health crisis.

Fairview is tackling this important issue by improving mental health literacy in communities across Minnesota through an education program called Mental Health First Aid.

Mental Health First Aid is an internationally recognized, evidence-based program managed by the National Council for Behavioral Health. It is an eight-hour course that helps participants identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and addiction.

“We teach people techniques,” explains Joanna Roberson, a Fairview trainer for the program. “We actually give them experiences in mental illness.”

Through group discussions and exercises, participants learn the risk factors and warning signs for mental illness and addiction, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, where to turn for help and non-judgmental communication and listening skills.

“I want people to be able to go out and talk about mental illness, to talk about mental health as it applies to them, their families, their communities and the people they work with,” says Joanna.

Since 2014, Fairview has trained 19 instructors, conducted 39 classes and certified 775 people in the Mental Health First Aid model. Courses are provided to community members free of charge thanks to funding from Fairview Foundation donors.

Learn more about Fairview’s Mental Health First Aid initiative and find upcoming classes.