Carolinas HealthCare System

Mental Health First Aid Training Offered to Thousands

John Santopietro, MD

John Santopietro, MD
Chief Clinical Officer of
Behavioral Health

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, making mental disorders the leading cause of disability in the United States and Canada.

To help connect those in need with proper care and support, Carolinas HealthCare System is working with the National Council for Behavioral Health to train more than 2,000 Mental Health First Aiders across North and South Carolina. 

In 2008, the National Council for Behavioral Health brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States. As of 2013, more than 140,000 people in communities across the country have been trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) through a network of 3,000 certified instructors.

“The MHFA course teaches participants how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis,” said John Santopietro, MD, chief clinical officer of behavioral health. “The training helps identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.”

Dr. Santopietro and Martha Whitecotton, senior vice president of behavioral health, and the Community Relations team of Carolinas HealthCare System, have been engaged in a wide range of community activities to increase mental health literacy and decrease stigma through Mental Health First Aid trainings.

To date, in partnership with the National Council, nearly 60 MHFA Instructors have been trained who in turn, have already trained 360 community members in MHFA. Instructors are certified to teach the eight-hour MHFA course, both internally for employees as well as in the community – in both English and Spanish.

Studies have shown that the program reduces social distance created by negative attitudes and perceptions of individuals with mental illnesses. The course uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis and connect people to professional, peer and social supports as well as self-help resources.

Learn more or sign up for training to become a Mental Health First Aider.

On April 7, Carolinas HealthCare System opened a new behavioral health campus in Davidson, N.C. Read more...