South Shore nonprofit offers seminar on first aid for mental health issues

Published on: June 14, 2017

Karen Fredricks, board member for the SouthShore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging, invites the community to attend Mental Health First Aid, a free seminar July 17 and 19 offering tips on recognizing the symptoms of a mental health issue, what to do and when to call someone else for help. LOIS KINDLE PHOTOS


Physical and emotional pain can both lead to crisis, and knowing what to do, when to do it and who to call can be a matter of life or death.

While there are many courses available offering first aid for issues involving the body, few are around for those affecting the brain. That’s why the Southshore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging began sponsoring free, public seminars called Mental Health First Aid.

The organization’s next eight-hour offering will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday, July 17, and Wednesday, July 19, at Beth Israel, the Congregation of Sun City Center, 1115 Del Webb Blvd. E.

“Everyone should take this, just like they should take CPR or first-aid training,” said Linda McKinnon, president and CEO of the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network. “Mental health issues are seen like a broken arm. That’s why it’s so important to know how to spot symptoms and know when to address them or when to call someone else. Mental Health First Aid is a starter course for the public. It’s appropriate and useful for anyone.”

Karen Fredricks, a SouthShore Coalition board member, spearheaded the local effort.

“Initially we hoped to present the seminar to members of the Sun City Center Emergency Squad this time, but due to a staffing shortage at the moment, the squad couldn’t spare the manpower to attend.”

Fredricks said the SouthShore Coalition has already sponsored three such seminars at Trinity Baptist, Redeemer Lutheran and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian churches.

The seminar is presented in two, four-hour sessions and is open to anyone of any age, including area residents, first responders, students, teachers, worship leaders and human resource professionals. Materials and refreshments are included.

Mental Health First Aid USA, an eight-hour course developed as a training program by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Missouri Department of Mental Health and the National Council of Behavioral Health, was modeled after a training and research program started in Australia by Betty Kirchener and Anthony Jornby in 2001.

Its aim is to give participants the skills they need to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or going through a mental health crisis.

“It helps people identify the symptoms of mental illness, understand their significance and know how to appropriately deal with them,” McKinnon said.

Each participant will get a free copy of the first edition of Mental Health First Aid USA, a 136-page publication designed for the course.

Funding to cover the purchase of these publications came from a Community Foundation of Tampa Bay trust set up by the estate of Sun City Center residents Carlyle and Elizabeth Stieler to benefit South Shore residents.

Each Mental Health First Aid seminar participant will get a free copy of the first edition of this 136-page publication, thanks to funding provided from a Community Foundation of Tampa Bay trust set up by the estate of Sun City Center residents Carlyle and Elizabeth Stieler to benefit South Shore residents.

“The Stielers trusted us to administer their gift to improve life in the Sun City Center area,” said Wilma Norton, the foundation’s vice president of marketing and communications. “Our South Shore Council felt that the Mental Health First Aid training was a prime example of a way to help the entire community, especially those in crisis, by providing training and tools that might not otherwise be available.”

A donation will be requested to help the SouthShore Coalition defray the cost of future publication purchases.

There is a limit of 30 or so for the upcoming seminar, but if the response is greater, a waiting list will be formed, Fredricks said. Other Mental Health First Aid seminars will be offered in the fall and winter.

To register or for more information on the seminar, call Central Florida Behavioral Health Network trainer Margo Fleisher at 813-740-4811, Ext. 222.

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid, visit