The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center is partnering with Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, Sumter County High School, and the Sumter County Sheriff’s Department to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses for several of its employees and community members this Fall. MHFA training, developed by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, provides a valuable learning experience teaching participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. This training gives those in attendance the skills one needs to reach out and provide initial support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem and help connect them to the appropriate care. The Center’s first MHFA training session of 2021 was offered to a blended audience of health care workers, administrative personnel, county sheriff, teachers, community members, and non-profit organization entrepreneurs in Sumter County. This training was taught by Dr. Kedrick Williams, Certified MHFA Instructor, and the Center’s Community Resource and Assessment Specialist. Twelve community members attended and were led through the skills-based, theoretically sound curriculum.
In addition to participants learning a wealth of knowledge on mental health, substance use issues, and first aid responses, this training rendered each participant with full certification as a Mental Health First Aider at the end of the course. In accordance with fulfilling safety and health regulations in response to the surge of COVID cases during this pandemic, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing developed a virtual instruction format, where participants were able to complete 2.5 hours of self-paced, online pre-work prior to attending a 5-hour Instructor-led session via the Zoom. At the conclusion of the session, participants shared “I feel prepared to be an effective MHFA in my community” and “I feel informed and ready to be a change agent for my family . . . who has been through so much lately. We lost my grandson unexpectedly 1 month ago and I’m the one in the family who usually is the weakest but some things I learned from this class are helping me be strong for them [my family]”. This partnership of organizations and the virtual instruction of the MHFA course has opened minds of participants, challenged health care professionals, and showcased knowledge and best practices on how best to address mental health needs and crisis in our communities.
The next training session for Sumter County is Saturday, September 18, 2021 which will be co-taught by Dr. Williams and colleague, Dr. Sharon Jones to a class of at least 25 participants. Final registration for this course is underway and spearheaded by staff at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center. We look forward to continuing the evolvement of this partnership not only to address the disparity of mental health awareness in the rural counties of Sumter and Macon County, but also to further fulfill our mission of improving healthcare through reliable research, creative strategies, and sustainable solutions.
If you are interested in hosting MHFA training for your community or organization, please contact Dr. Kedrick Williams at Williams_k2@georgiaruralhealth.org.