October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 30th, last year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer… not just breast cancer, but a fast-growing, invasive, triple negative breast cancer… one of the hardest types to have. In addition, she is over the age of 65, and the recommended treatments for this type of breast cancer are considered way too harsh for the majority of people over the age of 65. It was a tough year, but Mom is doing very well.

One interesting thing the breast surgeon who lead the cancer team said to my mom that first day, had little to do with the cancer treatment, although that is important. It was that Mom should not get upset at the amount of information, propaganda, advertising, and exposure that breast cancer gets from October 1st through about the first week of November, because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are lots of activities and advertisements going on to remind us, to raise awareness, and to raise money for research… and it is ultimately important. As we found out in the next 6 month, that is so true.

Because of the impact that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has brought about, we now know much more about breast cancer, the different types of cancer, and that there are many types of treatments that match perfectly to many different types of cancers. We have been instrumental in the amount of money that has lead to massive research and development and the number of scientists that can work on breast cancer science. While triple negative cancers still must use the harshest of chemotherapies and surgical removal to have the most effective treatment, scientists have learned that other types of breast cancer don’t all even need to use chemotherapy, and testing has been perfected to be able to identify many specific types of those cancers.

It is simply amazing what Breast Cancer Awareness month and its activities has brought about. Essentially, please support breast cancer awareness month. what can you do? Of course, you can donate your time or money; however, you can do other things, so don’t think that is the only thing available. If you have no time or no money, you can still do something: There are so many other things you can do during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How about some of these ideas:

  • Join or host a Relay team for one of the fundraisers
  • Host or take part in a Pink Ribbon Fashion Show
  • Take part in a breast cancer awareness lunch-n-learn program – teach or learn!
  • Pink Ribbons! – wear them, make them, sell them, pass them out
  • Neighborhood PINK Garage Sale Day – neighbors donate the proceeds
  • Make & Donate Caps/Headbands to a cancer center
  • Learn from any of the many Breast Cancer experts available
  • Provide pink cupcakes to a women’s organization, girl’s club
  • Write about your personal experiences – Share with others! try to balance the bad with the good.
  • Create a yearly workplace program or fundraiser for November – the sky’s the limit for these ideas!
  • Post your support for cancer patients and cancer survivors on Social media

What we all benefit from just may save your life, your mom’s life… your friend, your neighbor, your co-worker, your sister, your aunt, your girlfriend, your daughter, your granddaughter, your wife… November is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The New & Improved Mental Health First Aid

So we have completed the trials for the new fully virtual and the new blended (part online and part in the class) Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and YOUTH Mental Health First Aid certification courses. In July, all instructors were invited to take the training, and the new programs were rolled out. Not all of the instructors want to teach the virtual and blended classes, but many have taken the training and are trying it out.

It seems to be slow to be implemented, and the National Council is still working out some bugs with the digital parts of the new system, but we are FINALLY teaching the new MHFA and YOUTH MHFA courses using the internet options. So far, my participants have really indicated that they really enjoy the classes. That makes me happy. One participant said, “Pam, I really needed this training, but my anxiety about getting out in public with COVID-19 was stopping me from doing anything. This has relieved my anxiety, tremendously.” I think many of us can relate!

What I really like about the digital format is that I can have people from all over the USA, from all walks of life, from any culture or background, and from any perspective with any needs all come together to discuss how to help others who may be dealing with mental health challenges. I had a class, last week which included really phenomenal women. Two were college students looking forward to careers in medical and psychological sciences careers, 2 who do community outreach, one who is the founder of a women’s empowerment outreach program, an EMT, a software engineer, and a musician. Mental health and the desire to help others brought them together.

The next step is bringing out the new in-person course. The National Council for Behavioral Health announced, earlier this year, that all instructors would have to be trained to teach it by the end of October in order to remain instructors, so I am guessing that it should be ready to be rolled out very soon. They have updated EVERYTHING! Of course, ALGEE is the same, but the look and design of the program and manuals has changed (and been updated), the course has been reformatted and updated, we have new videos, artwork, activities, and more. The things that were most asked for in the participant evaluations, like talking about the effects trauma, culture, and ACEs have been integrated into the course, and it has been put more in line with the current version of the DSM with updated information and statistics (the ones that are available, that is).

For those of you already certified in the past: I think you are going to like the new Mental Health First Aid. For those of you who have yet to certify: You are in for a treat!. This is a great course, and has been shown to save lives, and at the very least be beneficial for those who do not know a lot about mental health. Interested in a fully virtual certification course? Email us or give us a call to get information!


Mental Health First Aid certification

Recognition of Mental Health First Aid
Do You Know ALGEE?

Some of you recognize ALGEE, and some of you will get to know ALGEE throughout the next few years. ALGEE is a very special little Koala. He is the mascot of the Mental Health First Aid program and is a reminder of the 5-step action plan that you are taught in Mental Health First Aid courses. Thanks to all of you who have certified and have become mental health “first-aiders.” You rock and have saved many lives with your thoughtful interactions, questions, and suggestion to help people who experience mental health challenges.

For those of you who are not familiar with Mental Health First Aid: What is it?

Mental Health First Aid is a certification program on the same level as CPR and First Aid & Safety. It is evidence-based which means that it is grounded in research and practices proven to work. It is for the person who has not had upper level psychology education and who does not work in the psychological services on a regular basis (they already know all of this stuff). So…, basically, it is for the rest of us! The program helps us understand how common mental health issues are, how to recognize when someone might be dealing with a mental health challenge or mental health crisis, how to approach someone we might be concerned about, and how to help them get the help which could change their lives.

Anyone who understands both physical and mental health understands that the earlier we can get a person help, the more likely the outcomes will be positive; however the longer it takes to get help, the more detrimental a health condition can become. Yes, that includes both physical and mental health. In Mental Health First Aid courses, we talk about how to approach a person we suspect may be having difficulty and how to start a conversation to find out more. Often, we find that the person is not having issues or may have a difficult situation that they can handle quickly and be well. How would we know if we didn’t ask, though?

In my experience, if I ask 15 people about what I observe, I generally find that 2 people could really use some help. Most of the time, the help they need is minimal. They may need to talk about something to get it out or to try to understand something they are struggling with better. They may need to learn a way to relax in certain circumstances. Students may need to talk with an academic advisor on advice about a course. Veterans may need an outlet for their experiences that they feel they can’t talk with because others have not “been there.” There are so m any thing and so many people who have mental health issues (1 in every 5 people or more), and they may need to know that they are not alone and someone has noticed and wants to be there for them.

On the other hand, every once in a while, I ask someone about what they are experiencing, and I find that they could use the help of a professional in the medical or mental health fields, or a social worker, or even police intervention, if necessary. If they probably could benefit from treatment, but don’t realize it, as a First-Aider, I can guide them toward choosing to get help by offering them information and letting them know they are not alone in whatever they are struggling with. There are lots of kinds of professional help.

My favorite role is encouraging people to use self-help skills and learning all they can about their disorders. It helps to reduce fear and anxiety and gives a person a way to help themselves to some degree without constantly needing medical care. If you have read this blog for a while, then you know that I am a huge fan of deep breathing exercises. WHY? Because it works for me. When we talk about self-help skills, though, we have to realize that there are many and they don’t all work to the same degree in everyone. I do deep breathing and gardening to reduce anxiety. My neighbor likes to work and stay as busy as possible. A friend of mine loves using acupuncture to relieve stress and reduce depression. A great question a Mental Health First-Aider can ask is: What makes you happy? What do you like to do that helps you relax/cope/learn/feel free/or whatever the person needs?

Mental Health First Aid can be as easy as this: Hi Tom, I noticed (XYZ)… I was wondering if we could talk about it in private. I want to help. What happens next depends on what you learn.

Use the ALGEE action plan. If you do not know it, then please find a Mental Health First Aid course, take it, and get certified! Now that we can teach Mental Health First Aid completely online, in a blended manner (half online and half in class), or in our wonderful traditional in-person course, there is no excuse to not get certified. WE have certified more than 2.4 million people in the USA, and you could be next! Come join the movement!

Thank you for being out there and saving lives, ya’ll!

Do you want to take Mental Health First Aid or Youth Mental Health First Aid online? We can get you into a class! email us at MHFA@educationwellness.org to get details.

Celebrating a Birthday during COVID-19 at home

My grandson was upset that he couldn’t go shopping for a birthday present for my recent birthday. He told his mom that it wasn’t fair to me that I wouldn’t get a birthday party and a nice gift from him, so she let him give me a call to make sure it was okay. He was so sad that he was crying… poor baby. Our conversation and the ending result turned out to be better than any birthday ever.

I reminded him that the thing that made me most happy was that he thought of me. Since he called me, I knew he was thinking about me, and that made me happier than any gift. I also reminded him of the wonderful birthday surprise that he and his classmates (and others) did for his friend from school for his birthday.

You can imagine how hard it would be to become 4, 5, 6, or 7 and not be able to have a celebration with your friends, so the boy’s mom sent out a birthday invitation to surprise him with a parade! This family lives in another town, but my daughter thought it was important to show the little guy that he was still being thought of and not forgotten, even though COVID-19 has everyone sheltering in place.

My grandson and his mom were early, so they got to be at the beginning of the line of about 50 carloads of families which showed up to wish the little boy a Happy Birthday. Our boys were able to have a good conversation (from a distance) before the parade started, and a gift was left on the sidewalk. There were hand-made signs and music and gifts and family, friends, and classmates in each car. My grandson was so excited. “What is most important,” he said, “Is Kindness!”

Reminding him of this made him feel better and gave him an idea. Later in the day, as I was leaving to go to the VA hospital, a little voice yells out to me, “Hey Grandma!” (Hearing that voice always melts my heart). He had brought me some birthday presents that he had painted. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than something my little fella made from his heart especially for me… except for the joy he had in giving me something so special.

COVID-19 might slow us down. but it can’t stop kindness and love. Happy Birthday!