There is an odd sense of energy and fatigue that comes with traveling across the country to connect with others around a common cause. In my case, I teach a course called Mental Health First Aid and certify people to teach the course which is another layer of learning process for folks. MHFA is a 12 hour seminar that originated in Australia and piloted in the United States in 2008. Its objectives are to educate community members and various professionals to recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of a developing mental health problem or crisis and to assist an individual until appropriate professional help is available. We cover five content areas: depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance use and eating disorders and introduce an 5 step action plan that individuals can implement. More than that, we work to combat stigma and misperceptions about mental illness.
Having had a mother who took her own life and spent time in jail for felony DUIs and a father who suffered from drug addiction, I have a vested interest in the topic. And as a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked in the field for the last 16 years, I have a professional stake in the course as well. But more than anything, I love the sense of relief and healing I witness as others go through the course and become more empowered to assist those they know and care about in their lives. We have school teachers, counselors, police officers, senators, pastors, HR professionals and concerned citizens come through our course all with a sense of being part of a now international movement to break through the silence and shame that often envelops those suffering.
And then there are the funny little things of being on the road such as the various nuances of hotels, airports, rental cars and restaurants. The joys of friendships made and cities visited. Let’s take this show on the road to a town near you!