Gateway: News

Mental Health First Aid classes offered free to Pierce County residents

Looking to increase understanding and response to mental health problems, CHI Franciscan Health is offering Mental Health First Aid classes to train 1,000 Pierce County residents by this summer.

Speaheaded by the Prevent-Avert-Respond (PAR) Mental Health Initiative, the eight-hour classes teach attendees common warning signs of mental health problems and provide the skills to offer help to someone developing mental health problems or in a mental crises, including suicidal thoughts, said Monet Craton, director of the initiative.

“Right now most people don’t know what to do if they run into somebody they don’t know, a family member or a coworker, if they’re showing signs of a mental health disorder or a crises of some sort,” Craton explained. “It means people are getting the help they need soon rather than escalating into a crisis.”

The trainings are available at no charge to Pierce County residents through the PAR initiative. Nearby classes can be found online at

Organizations interested in holding trainings for employees or members can contact Craton at

“If we get enough people trained in mental health first aid (then) it’s going to reduce stigma and get more people help,” Craton said. “It’s better for our community because it’s less burden on our police force, on our emergency personnel, emergency rooms and jails.”

The PAR Mental Health Initiative is a community-based approach to reduce mental health crises in Pierce County through partnerships with local and state organizations. A three-year initiative, mental health first aid trainings are scheduled in Pierce County through June 2019 and are supported by grant funding from Catholic Health Initiatives, the Franciscan Foundation and community partners’ contributions.

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea