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Learn how to help others during an emergency with Mental Health First Aid training

A group of diverse people in a therapy

URBANA, Ill. — One in five Americans has a mental illness, and depression and anxiety increased following the pandemic. Still, many are reluctant to seek help due to stigma or don't know where to turn for care. Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and substance use problems can be challenging to detect. Friends and family members may struggle to know when and how to step in. As a result, those in need of mental health services, especially youth and those in agricultural communities, often do not receive care until it is a crisis.

The Mental Health First Aid training course equips individuals to recognize, comprehend, and respond to mental health or substance use challenges. Like CPR for heart attacks, Mental Health First Aid empowers non-clinical participants to support those in crisis with a five-step action plan. This course offered by the University of Illinois Extension Integrated Health Disparities team is available in English and Spanish and both in-person and online hybrid formats. 

"When mental health issues affect our farmers, they affect all of us. This Farm and Ranch Stress grant will provide the resources our farmers, their families, and community members need to maintain good mental and emotional health, as they contribute so much for many," said Shelly Nickols Richardson, associate dean and director of Illinois Extension.

The program is designed for individuals interested in becoming mental health first aiders for youth. It is open to Extension staff and community members. The program is free for farm workers or those working with the farm community. Other community members can participate for a fee of $60. This fee covers training, course materials, and certification. The class can be delivered in one full-day session or split into two half-day sessions.

"Never has it been more important for our communities to talk about mental health and substance use," said Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, which helped bring the program to the U.S. in 2008. "This program is breaking down barriers and stigma so we can learn how to support one another better. Without mental health, there is no health."

For more information about taking the training, contact Andrea Fanta, mental health specialist, at

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid, visit

SOURCE: Andrea Fanta, mental health specialist, Illinois Extension.
WRITER: Herbert Chavez, media communications coordinator, Illinois Extension.

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.