Harford Magazine - Page 13 - A big move (3)

Harford Magazine
- Page 13
A big move (3)

listening to what the person is feeling. The training explores ways that responders can give reassurance and information, encourage professional assistance and encourage the individual to seek out family or peer supports. The day includes lectures, films, group discussions and role-playing.


Susan Brown of Aberdeen works in a cardiology practice and volunteers for the National Patient Advocacy Foundation and Backpacks for Life, a veteran support nonprofit.


“The course helps to give the opening to approach someone on the street who may be crying,” says Brown, who took the course. “It gives the tools and right words. Sometimes that is all someone needs. The person could be having a bad day that could go into another and then another if someone doesn’t reach out.”


Across Harford County, more than 1,000 people have completed MHFA since 2009. They include health care workers, emergency responders, community advocates, librarians, clergy members and families, as well as people who themselves have experienced mental illness. In 2010, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office was the first law enforcement agency in the country to adopt MHFA as its primary mental health training for all employees.


As a faith leader, as well as a person with a family history of mental illness, the Rev. Lisa Bornt of Grace Episcopal Church in Darlington has come together with many in times of crisis.


“There is so much stigma around mental health. I know it was like that in my family, but it is also happening culturally,” says Bornt, who took the course. “If we can make mental health a regular part of our conversation, it is more likely that people will recognize that they need help or more willing to accept help.”


The Harford County Office on Mental Health, Healthy Harford/Healthy Cecil, University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Harford County Department of Community Services, Harford Community College and the Friends R Family Foundation work together to bring MHFA to the public and to first responders. Several courses are designed specifically to meet the unique behavioral health issues of youths.