Mental Health First Aid Monthly Newsletter


Hello, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) family!

One of the driving forces behind MHFA and the work of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing is the belief that mental wellbeing – including recovery from substance use – can be a reality for everyone, everywhere. A gleaming example of this is Alexander Hardy – a grits-powered writer; home cook, dancer, lupus survivor, co-founder of creative wellness agency GetSomeJoy and Mental Health First Aider turned MHFA Instructor.

On the heels of five-plus years of unstable housing, including nearly three years in New York City’s loud, chaotic shelters, Hardy found that he feels the most alive in his kitchen, where he feels connected to his mother, grandmother and their Panamanian roots.

“Food is more than a source of sustenance for me. It’s an icebreaker and a way to get friends and strangers to talk about feelings. … Food is a vehicle for joy,” Hardy writes in a recent MHFA blog.

He shares five ways to use food as a tool for practicing mindfulness, fostering connection and centering joy:

  1. Prepare or order a meal that represents joy to you.
    • What dishes represent joy or safety to you? Why?
    • Write about it.
    • Ask a loved one the same question and use that dish to brighten their day.
  2. Reflect and write about your family and cultural food traditions and history.
    • Marinate on your family or community’s connections to food in your journal, or explore this question with community members, students or coworkers.
  3. Host a virtual cook-along with family, friends or co-workers.
    • Pick a date, choose a dish and share the recipe ahead of time. Whether you’re each making the same dish, or you’ve all chosen something different, going through your processes and even enjoying your meals together in a videoconference removes distance as a barrier to connection.
  4. Practice mindful eating by not working or scrolling while eating.
    • What spices or ingredients can you smell? Notice the crunch or the softness in that first bite, how the flavors and textures harmonize (or don’t). Who or what do the flavor or food combinations bring to mind?
    • Appreciate the flavors that linger on your tongue, and the work, creativity or love that brought the meal to your plate. Do a celebratory dance if the spirit moves you!
  5. Experiment with one new recipe per week or month.
    • It doesn’t have to be a holiday-level spread. Try a new sauce or find a copycat recipe of one of your favorite restaurant meals.

To help you take care of your mental wellbeing and support those around you, we shared information and resources via the MHFA blog all month long. Check out these posts or visit us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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Alcohol Use Disorder is Not a Choice: Understanding and Supporting with Mental Health First Aid

“Many of us may be familiar with the phrase, ‘Hindsight is 20/20.’ I know I am. I routinely wish I had known many of the things I know now when I was younger, especially regarding my mother’s life-long challenge with alcohol use.” This moving personal account from MHFA National Trainer Tony Campbell provides insight and hope for those whose lives are touched by alcohol use disorder. Read more.


Bipolar Disorder: How to Help with Mental Health First Aid

Our everyday mood swings aren’t the same as a mood disorder. Bipolar disorder is more prevalent than you may think – 2.8% of adults in the U.S. experienced bipolar disorder in the past year, and it may account for 25% of all completed suicides. This post explains how First Aiders can assist someone living with bipolar disorder. Read more.


Use Person-First Language to Reduce Stigma

Language is powerful, and your choice of words can either break down misconceptions and stereotypes about mental health and substance use challenges, or feed into them. Use this chart from MHFA to incorporate more inclusive language into your discussions about mental wellbeing. Read more.

  • Calling all fire/EMS professionals, public safety workers and veterans! May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we want to give voice to First Aiders like you, who do such great work in these communities. This is your opportunity to contribute to our blog and bring important mental health challenges affecting your communities into the spotlight and share how people can #BeTheDifference with MHFA. Email to learn more.
  • Each year, the National Council awards a one-time $5,000 grant to four outstanding full-time doctoral students who demonstrate significant potential as researchers in their fields of study and who are interested in evaluating the outcomes of MHFA trainings in the U.S. This year’s application is due May 27, 2022. Learn more.

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Interested in mental health and substance use advocacy? Register for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s Hill Day at Home, a free, virtual event on June 8. During Hill Day at Home, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from key leaders on the latest mental health and substance use policy developments coming from Capitol Hill and the White House, plus the chance to show your support for key programs like Mental Health First Aid.

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For valuable insight from one of the most commonly used mental health training programs, Stateline – The Pew Charitable Trusts sat down with MHFA’s Tramaine EL-Amin to discuss the recent influx of legislation aimed at improving teens’ mental wellbeing, which has been at an all-time low due in large part to the pandemic. “Every state in this country has adopted youth mental health first aid in some schools in some way,” EL-Amin said. “This year’s surge in legislative activity is helping get the word out.” Read more.


With youth depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation skyrocketing, the Associated Press looks at what schools are doing to address the issue. California-based teacher and certified Youth Mental Health First Aider, Benito Luna-Herrera, is using the skills learned through MHFA to look for signs of inner turmoil and help show students the light at the end of the tunnel. MHFA client experience officer Tramaine EL-Amin shares red flags to look for when a child talks about dying or suicide, which can often sound vague like: “I can’t do this anymore,” or “I’m tired of this.” Read more.


After losing three classmates to suicide, students at Dover High School (DHS) in New Hampshire formed a Mental Health Initiative. The Dover Mental Health Alliance will fund two years of teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) training. DHS sophomore Catie Moe reflects that after the training, “I can, and I have, gone up to people and said, ‘How’s it going; is anything bothering you? Do you need or want to talk about it?” She adds, “I can let them know there are people who care — me, parents, teachers, counselors. I can tell them we all care, and we really want to help.” Read more.


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