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My Journey To Becoming A Mental Health First Aid Instructor/Facilitator

Have you ever felt like you aren’t living as the best version of yourself?

Do you know what to do if someone in your life tells you that things aren’t good right now?

Most of us are helpers in this world.  We WANT to help, but sometimes we don’t know what to say, or do. 
Or we worry about saying or doing the right thing vs. the wrong thing. 

From the moment I received my own diagnosis of depression/anxiety I knew that I wanted to use my skills as a speaker and trainer to share more about mental wellbeing in my community. 

Partly because I didn’t feel like there were enough professionals talking about their own experiences at work, but also because I didn’t recognize my own signs and symptoms and wanted others to be more aware and informed on a topic that impacts so many of us. 

My depression story isn’t one for the record books.  There’s no fanfare or drama.  I didn’t have the symptoms that I think are portrayed often in the media – extreme sadness and melancholy.  It was a feeling that crept up on me so slowly that I had no idea what was happening to me. I experienced many physical symptoms – aches, pains, brain fog, feeling like I couldn’t focus or concentrate. Feeling irritable constantly. 

The changes were subtle yet extreme and I felt horrible on the inside. Outwardly, I continued on. 

The important part of this story is that I did something. I went looking for answers to why I wasn’t feeling like the best version of myself. 

I talked.

I asked.

I took medication.

I learned.

I worked on myself.

I talked more.

I learned more.

From my own journey, I realized that there are so many facets and elements of mental health and wellbeing that most of us don’t really understand. I wanted to be able to share my knowledge with as many people as possible.  

I found the Mental Health Commission of Canada Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program and immediately began looking into the application process to become an instructor/facilitator. As I was applying, I connected with the volunteer team at It’s Mental, and started getting more involved in the amazing mental health conversations happening right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. The timing was perfect and meant to be – the It’s Mental team had been leading grassroots fundraising initiatives to provide support to someone local who wanted to become a Mental Health First Aid trainer.  They were able to support my instructor application with both a community letter of recommendation as well as financial support and in December 2019, I spent a week in intensive instructor training with an amazing team of fellow Canadians in Mississauga, Ontario and completed the certification process

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Currently the Mental Health First Aid course is available in two formats. Mental Health First Aid Standard (Virtual) 8 hour or Mental Health First Aid Basic (In Person) 12 hour certificate courses.

“Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the support provided to a person who may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a mental health crisis.

Course participants will learn how to recognize signs that a person may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a mental health crisis and encourage that person to:

  • Talk about declines in their mental well-being
  • Discuss professional and other supports that could help with recovery to improved mental well-being
  • Reach out to these support
  • Assist in a mental health or substance use crisis
  • Use MHFA actions to maintain one’s own mental well-being”.

It’s real, practical training.

It introduces the important skills that we need to have conversations around mental health and wellbeing.  I genuinely feel that every human who interacts with other humans needs to have the Mental Health First Aid training in their skills toolbox. 

The new VIRTUAL training means that you can participate in a Mental Health First Aid course no matter where you live in the province as long as you have access to an internet connection and a computer or tablet device. 

The entire volunteer team at It’s Mental continues to work toward common goals and to bring more mental health awareness and learning opportunities to Newfoundland and Labrador (and the rest of Canada). Stay tuned for exciting updates as we move forward. 

Alison Butler Newfoundland

About Alison

You can find upcoming training sessions at alisonbutler.ca and learn more about my wellbeing journey on Instagram @alisonbutlernl