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Have you ever considered Mental Health First Aid training?


A Causcasian woman, purple hair wearing jeweld cat glasses

Whenever a friend, family member, or acquaintance reveals that they are struggling with their mental health, it can often come as a shock to those around them.


Many individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide say they never saw it coming or that it was the last person you’d expect to take their own life. Even comparatively milder forms of mental health problems can take close ones by surprise when they become aware. 


But that isn’t to say that there aren’t signs. In fact, most mental illness, or disorders, have recognizable traits, whether suffering from an eating disorder, dealing with PTSD from domestic abuse, the exceedingly difficult topic of suicide, or any other issue.


We’ve spoken before about the importance of sharing your mental health story to provide others with a window into your world. The act of sharing, while cathartic, can also help raise awareness in others so that they can better understand what others are going through – or identify with the issue they are experiencing. 


However, this isn’t the only step you can take to increase your awareness and skill level with regard to mental health. Another option is to undertake a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course. 


This is exactly what Michelle Frechette did.


Who is Michelle Frechette?


Michelle Frechette is a successful professional, enjoying a thriving career in the WordPress development sector as Director of Community Engagement for StellarWP at Liquid Web. 


Even aside from her official day job, Michelle is exceptionally active in the WordPress community. She is the “Podcast Barista” at WPCoffeeTalk.com, as well as being the creator of WPSpeakers.com, underrepresentedintech.com, and wpcareerpages.com, among other podcasts and projects. 


Among her various initiatives, there is one that Michelle got involved in that is related to mental health. She joined the work of Dan Maby, founder of Big Orange Heart - this is a community of peer support for remote workers. As individuals in the technology field often work from home, Michelle knew that there was a high chance that many would be suffering from issues of loneliness, isolation, or more. 


“It was under this hat that I decided to get the mental health certification,” Michelle explains. “I found it by doing some online sleuthing and discovered that it was free to sign up.”


Mental Health First Aid


For those who aren’t aware, Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based early intervention course. It provides learners with the knowledge to better assist or support people suffering from mental health challenges or substance misuse.


The course is administered by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, and is available either virtually or in-person. In total, over three million people in the United States have been trained in MHFA, gaining insights into key topics such as: 


  • Signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges.  

  • How to interact with a person who is experiencing a crisis. 

  • How to connect a person with the right help for them.  

  • Trauma, substance use and self-care best practices. 

What to expect when you sign up


The short course takes place in just one or two sessions, with sessions lasting up to four hours. In Michelle’s case, they took place on Saturdays and she makes a point of mentioning that it is open to people with all levels of knowledge or training in mental health support.


“I had been an EMT at one point in time,” she explains. “That was medical rather than mental health training, but we did have some training around suicide and suicide prevention.”


Although Michelle had previous experience, she recognized that it was well-designed for all participants. 


“It was put out in an organized way,” she explains. “You didn’t feel like, right from the very start, that you were in over your head.” 


Michelle goes on to give an overview of what the classes were like, with around 12 or 15 people in the online group she signed up for. Aside from the participants, there was also a trainer and someone training to be a trainer. 


She remembers the content fondly, saying, “They divvied up the work and how they presented it to us. I remember watching [scenario]  videos and answering questions as a group.”


What’s more, Michelle noticed that the trainers’ background in understanding various personality types added to the experience.


“Nobody was forced to answer questions if they weren’t comfortable,” she says. “They had the option to have cameras on or cameras off. We were given the freedom to choose.”


Michelle’s main takeaways from the course


So, what was the result of the two-day mental-health sprint? 


For Michelle – even as someone who had a background in mental health training – she learned things she didn’t know before. She highlights having the tools to not just recognize but also offer support to individuals. 


“I use those tools every day,” she says. “They allow you to assess where people are coming from. I’ve seen people struggling and, if I’m not somebody I know could reach out to them, then I’ve been able to reach out to other people to ask them to check up on so and so.” 


As Michelle puts it, it’s allowed her to “be the conduit to providers and to safety and support for whatever their specific issues are.”


Would you like to sign up for Mental Health First Aid?


Mental Health First Aid is a national project with courses available across the country, either online or in person. The courses come in either adult or youth formats, with some options available in Spanish. 


If you would like to sign up for a Mental Health First Aid course, please feel free to visit their website and sign-up for the MHAI newsletter as we’ll conduct courses in the coming months. 


For any other questions, you can contact us at Mental Health America of Illinois or info@mhai.org


Michelle Frechette is the Director of Community Engagement for StellarWP at Liquid Web.

She was called "The busiest woman in WordPress," by Matt Mullenweg at WCUS 2022.


In addition to her work at StellarWP, Michelle is the Podcast Barista at WPCoffeeTalk.com, cofounder of underrepresentedintech.com, creator of WPSpeakers.com creator of wpcareerpages.com, the Executive Director at PostStatus.com, co-host of the WPMotivate podcast, co-host of the Audacity Marketing podcast, host of the WP Constellations podcast, author, and a frequent organizer and speaker at WordPress events. 


Michelle lives outside of Rochester, NY where she’s an avid nature photographer. You can learn more about Michelle at meetmichelle.online.

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