Fifteen new Instructors certified to teach Youth Mental Health First Aid

Pictured top row from left are National Council Trainers Marina Pessrl and Eric Weaver. Newly trained instructors: Tina Engledow from Community Healthcore (CHC), Amy Moser from ESC-Region 6, Colleen Plair of Arlington ISD, Jami Poteet of ESC-Region 5, Whitney Murdock of Spindletop Center, Shannon Story of Burke, Patrica Deloney and Staci Cabbiness of CHC and Melissa Simmons of Burke; bottom row, Renee Todd of CHC, Denise Truax, Melody Sanchez and Shelby Martinez of Helen Farabee Center, and Monique Wicker and Kinnie Reina of Burke. Instructors are holding their Algee koalas, the mascot of the Mental Health First Aid program.

This summer, Burke hosted a training that added fifteen new instructors from the state of Texas to the Mental Health First Aid team. The new instructors represent organizations throughout the state: from Burke based in Lufkin, Spindletop Center based in Beaumont, Community Healthcore out of Longview, Helen Farabee Center out of Wichita Falls, Education Service Centers 5 & 6, and Arlington ISD.

“We are thrilled to bring Youth Mental Health First Aid to partner organizations across the state,” says Susan Rushing, CEO at Burke.  “Most people know how to recognize and appropriately react to medical emergencies, but there is little knowledge in the general public about what to do in a mental health crisis.” Rushing explains that “Burke has offered Mental Health First Aid training to the East Texas region for five years and is adding new instructors to meet the increased need among our school systems.”

Youth Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour training course designed to give members of the public key skills to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.  The new instructors will be certified to teach the 8-hour program to a variety of audiences, ranging from parents, clergy, community leaders, as well as school teachers, support staff, and administrators.  The instructor certification training was conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health, who manages the program in the United States.

“We’re enthused to welcome Burke as a partner in extending Mental Health First Aid across the country,” says Linda Rosenberg, MSW, president, and CEO of the National Council.   “We anticipate the new instructors will have a great impact on the mental health communities throughout Texas and will be key players in improving mental health literacy nationwide.”

The new instructors join more than 9,000 U.S. instructors already certified by MHFA-USA as instructors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  Instructors come from a variety of backgrounds, including behavioral healthcare, law enforcement and public safety, universities, faith communities, and primary care.

Included on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, studies show that training in Mental Health First Aid builds confidence in helping an individual experiencing a mental health challenge, reduces negative or distancing attitudes towards individuals with mental illnesses, and increases mental health literacy – being able to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

If you are interested in taking a Mental Health First Aid course with Burke, visit or call (936) 639-1141.

The National Council for Behavioral Health (National Council) is the unifying voice of America’s community mental health and addictions treatment organizations. Together with our 2,500 member organizations, we serve our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — the more than eight million adults and children living with mental illnesses and addiction disorders. We are committed to ensuring all Americans have access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery and full participation in community life. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained more than 500,000 individuals to connect youth and adults in need to mental health and addictions care in their communities.