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For Immediate Release

PRESS CONTACT: Kelly Kapaun, Juliana Minsky                                                                                         805/687-3322

Certification course offered in Santa Maria by Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County

June 14, 2011, Santa Barbara, CA— We’ve all heard of CPR and first aid to address physical distress, but what happens when someone is exhibiting signs of emotional or mental distress?

The Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara is providing the community with a groundbreaking public education program – Mental Health First Aid – that helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. Mental Health First Aid is an interactive 12-hour course funded by the Mental Health Service Act that teaches participants about the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems and provides an overview of common treatment options.
“Mental Health First Aid gives certified individuals in our community the tools to make a potentially life-saving difference for a person in crisis,” said Annmarie Cameron, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara. “Not only does this program save lives, but published research studies indicate this program improves the mental health of those in the program itself by expanding the public’s knowledge of mental illness.”

Mental Health First Aid trainees are taught how to respond appropriately to mental health problems in a variety of situations, such as helping someone through a panic attack, engaging with someone who may be suicidal, or assisting an individual who has overdosed. An important component of the Mental Health First Aid training is the opportunity to practice the intervention strategy rather than to just learn about it. This simple experience can make it easier to actually apply the knowledge in a real-life situation. Just as CPR training helps a layperson with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a layperson assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis until appropriate professional help arrives.

The upcoming Mental Health First Aid Certification course starts Wednesday, June 29th. Attendance of all three course sessions is required for certification:

The three-session course meets from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29th, July 6th, and July 13th:

Location: Community Action Commission, 201 West Chapel Street in Santa Maria

Course cost: $45 (25 person maximum per three-series course)

Register early as past courses have filled up quickly.

Chrystie Lewis, MHA’s Mental Health First Aid Coordinator, leads the trainings, which are funded by the Mental Health Service Act, and taught in collaboration with the Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County and the County of Santa Barbara Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services.

Successful participants of the program are certified as Mental Health First Aiders and learn a 5-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources and knowledge to help an individual in crisis connect with appropriate professional, peer, social and self-help care.

For more information, please visit or contact Chrystie Lewis at (805) 884-8440 ext. 124 or [email protected].

The Mental Health Association in Santa Barbara County is a private, non-profit organization providing support, housing and advocacy to adults and families affected by severe mental illness. For more information, call (805) 884-8440 or visit


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