Hilary Harrison, health education coordinator for Samaritan Health Services, has been named a Top Mental Health First Aid Instructor for 2018 from more than 17,000 trainers nationwide. Top Instructors were recognized at the 2019 Mental Health First Aid Instructor Summit last month in Nashville, Tennessee.
This is the second year in a row that Harrison has received this honor from the National Council for Behavioral Health.
Each year, the council recognizes the instructors who train the most people in this vital action plan to support someone who is having a mental health or substance use issue.
Mental Health First Aid is a course that teaches a five-step action plan to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health or substance use problems and offer support and help. In 10 years, it’s become a movement— more than 1.5 million people are certified and that number grows every day.
“Our Mental Health First Aid Instructors are the backbone of the program,” said Betsy Schwartz, vice president for public education and strategic initiatives at the National Council. “They’re the ones on the ground teaching communities across the country, and our Top Instructors in particular are making incredible progress toward de-stigmatizing mental health and getting people the support that they need.”
Since Harrison started training MHFA in 2014 she has instructed more than 150 classes and trained more than 2,000 people.
“I’m passionate about increasing people’s ability to help others in mental health crisis or needing support and reducing the stigma around mental health topics in our community. Mental Health First Aid is a powerful class that can save a life,” Harrison said.
In 2018 she trained more than 700 people across Benton and Lincoln counties, including every firefighter and paramedic for the Corvallis Fire Department, YES House staff, Head Start of Lincoln County, employees from many different departments within Samaritan and interested community members.
“Feedback and personal stories of people better able to help others motivate me to share this information and develop people’s skills in having a mental health related conversation,” Harrison said. “The most rewarding part is when people tell me how taking the class helped them better understand someone’s situation or have a conversation with someone, potentially preventing a suicide.”