Mental Health Outreach: Reflecting and Forging Ahead

January 2019

Our Mental Health Outreach Fellows are now in the final quarter of their fellowship year. Since completing their Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor training in March 2018, they’ve been on the ground in their communities leading MHFA training sessions to diverse groups including local fire/EMS units, universities, hospitals, homeless shelters, U.S. naval stations, state correctional facilities, professional associations, and others.

To date, our Fellows have led MHFA courses at over 30 training sites, teaching over 700 people

July 2019 update: As of 7/1/2019, the Mental Health Outreach Fellows have trained approximately 1,600 individuals in their communities in MHFA.

Feedback and Outcomes

Our Fellows report that the training course has been well-received by participants — and has already led to tangible outcomes for some trainees.

Melodie Kolmetz of Rochester, NY, shared the following feedback from one course participant, a professor:

“I just had a student come talk to me about not getting their work done last week and struggling with their depression. I can say that I felt 10,000 times more comfortable talking with this student today than I would have a few weeks ago. Even successfully asked if they were feeling like harming themselves. (No! Thank goodness!) At any rate, just wanted to say thank you!”

Becky Ulrich, who has led several courses in her South Carolina community as well as in her home state of Kansas, says she has noticed a marked increase in open dialogue about mental health and burnout in both personal and professional settings:

“Being a PA and a Mental Health First Aid instructor has brought about greater awareness of mental health within both my work environment and social circle. I find that my hospital peers, friends and family are now opening up to me about their personal experiences and concerns about friends and family members who live with mental illness. For the first time in my PA career, I’m hearing open, non-judgmental conversations about mental health, even from those within the healthcare profession.”

Course evaluation data shows that around 98% of participants who have taken one of our Fellows’ MHFA courses report they agree or strongly agree they “feel more confident [they] can…recognize the signs that someone may be dealing with a mental health problem or crisis.” Around 97% say they agree or strongly agree they “feel more confident [they] can…recognize and correct misconceptions about mental health and mental illness as [they] encounter them.”

What’s Next

Mental health will remain a priority focus area for the Foundation in 2019. Capitalizing on the training experience and expertise of our Fellows cohort, we will expand our initiative within a specific training environment with a proven need for mental health outreach: community college campuses

This phase of our program will connect Fellows with local community colleges and equip them with resources to lead a minimum of two Mental Health First Aid training sessions for college faculty and staff. To date, 11 community colleges in eight states have signed up to participate in the training program. In addition to providing MHFA training, we will connect the community colleges with local mental healthcare providers for treatment referrals as needed. 

The PA Foundation has secured grant funding from multiple sources to support this initiative. Thank you to Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., AAPA, and PAEA for their support.