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January 19, 2012 Volume 3, Issue 3
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The RTP quarterly e-newsletters keep you posted on our efforts to bring recovery into everyday clinical practice. A variety of personal stories and columns reflect how we are promoting the vision, values, and principles of recovery for behavioral health practitioners and consumers. To view previous issues, please visit If you would like to contribute to the e-newsletter, please email

Mental Health First Aid Connects Us
by Christine Dowling
In response to the tragedy that occurred on January 8, 2011, when 19 people were shot during a public meeting in Casas Adobes, Arizona agencies and organizations* banded together to promote Statewide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training.

As of April 2011, the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) counted 10,330 inmates who had a mental health needs score of 3 or above (which requires ongoing mental health services). Of that number, approximately 1,300 were identified as seriously mentally ill, either by other agencies prior to incarceration or official ADC evaluation. Approximately 75 percent of ADC inmates had "significant" substance abuse issues.

Motivated by these numbers, I completed MHFA training. I was also required to facilitate three community trainings on the topic that incorporated MHFA's five-step action plan (ALGEE) to help those in crisis:
Assess for risk of suicide or harm
Listen nonjudgmentally
Give reassurance and information
Encourage appropriate professional help
Encourage self-help and other support strategies
Similar to CPR certification, the MHFA action plan helps a layperson with no clinical training assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis, such as contemplation of suicide.

The MHFA training curriculum describes risk factors and warning signs for mental health and substance use problems. We engage in experiential activities that reveal the impact of illness on individuals and families, and learn about evidence-based treatment and self-help strategies.

MHFA's framework was designed to address a variety of audiences, including friends and families of those with mental illness or addiction; professionals, such as police officers, human resources directors, and primary care workers; school and college administrators; faith-based communities; and anyone interested in learning more about mental health. Training locations vary as MHFA program sites extend to chambers of commerce, professional associations, hospitals, nursing homes, Rotary Clubs, parent organizations, and other groups.

My first MHFA community training was facilitated by Liz Lillard, an academic advisor at Cochise College. We invited the public to attend the free 2-day interactive workshop at the Douglas Campus. Registered participants included nursing staff from local public schools, students pursuing degrees in mental health, nonprofit outreach agencies, and ADC staff.

During the workshop, personal experiences were often shared, like those of participants who had survived life-threatening attacks while on the job. A special community began to form among facilitators and participants.

After the training, I remembered running into a man at a local grocery store who had returned home from prison. I recognized him from various events sponsored by Loved Ones Incarcerated.

"What do you get from these activities you organize?" he asked me. I had stopped to say hello and felt a little surprise at his question.

"It keeps us connected," I responded. "I can say to someone who is home from prison or [who] has a loved one in prison, that I know a gentleman who came home and is doing great, and ask [him or her] to call you for support." I pointed at him, referring to his positive response when I asked how he was. We separated, but not before expressing our farewells with a hug.

When I teach the MHFA workshop, I learn more about community connections. I am grateful for the community vehicle that connects us all and contributes to reducing shame and stigma.

Christine Dowling is Executive Director of the Loved Ones of the Incarcerated program. Contact her at or visit
*The Arizona Department of Health Services: Division of Behavioral Health Services, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, Arizona's Regional Behavioral Health Authorities, the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, Magellan of Arizona, Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority, and Cenpatico.

Only One Week Left to Register for Trauma-Informed Care Webinar
This session will help practitioners determine when and how extensively traumatic experiences have affected people with behavioral health conditions and how to incorporate that knowledge into their care-planning approach. In a comprehensive discussion on trauma-informed care, presenters will describe a range of supports, implementation tools, and interventions to address the role of trauma in recovery.

January 25, 2012

3–4:30 p.m. EST

Three multidisciplinary practitioners will share their perspectives on the differences between trauma-informed systems and other systems of care, including how trauma-informed assessment incorporates approaches to ensure safety, meet the consumer's needs, and avoid interventions that could recreate aspects of previous traumatic experiences. Presenters include practitioner Kevin Huckshorn, RN, MSN, who will talk about assessing trauma in an outpatient setting; Paula Panzer, MD, a recovery-oriented practitioner who will address trauma-informed care planning; and Eric Arauz, MLER, a member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association RTP Steering and Curriculum Committees, who will discuss interventions and supports that have helped facilitate his recovery from personally traumatic experiences.

To register, click here.

NEW! RTP Resource
Reforming Psychology Training Abroad
In Europe, the mental health field primarily comprises psychologists. As the number of psychologists increases in countries like France, requests for psychological services are also on the rise. Still, psychologists' initial training is inconsistent at best, often failing to provide the kind of knowledge and skills required to meet consumer expectations. "A Proposal for Reforming Psychologists' Training in France and in the European Union," published in the February 2009 issue of L'Encéphale, calls for a transformation of current training that would extend, update, and homogenize psychology education to address current needs. According to the author, such changes would help European countries become global examples for psychology training and professional practice.

Read the abstract.

The Hopeworks Community
The Hopeworks Community blog tells the story of one couple's struggles, triumphs, and mechanisms for coping with the trials and tribulations of bipolar disorder. Their work is equal parts perseverance and realism: "We have learned to focus on what we can do and accept what we can't."

In addition to providing wellness-focused articles and video, regular posts reach out to readers searching for hope, comfort, and the possibility of recovery. The October 27, 2011 entry, "On Coercion," talks about fallacies in the U.S. mental health system—particularly the notion that coercion is an effective way to treat people with serious mental illness:

"Coercive 'helping relationships' destroy the credibility of those who help. People perceive them as not wanting to listen, not taking feelings or views other than their own into account, and trying to force ideas and interventions on them they view as dangerous or ineffective."

Read the rest of this blog entry at

Shared Decision Making in Mental Health Care
SAMHSA's Shared Decision Making (SDM) Report describes how practitioners can work together with consumers towards a common goal. An intervention that focuses on the consumer as an indispensible partner in recovery, SDM has the potential to greatly influence mental health care.

The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in
recovery-oriented work and how it has changed the way they practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or
other recovery resources, please contact Cheryl Tutt, MSW, at 877.584.8535,
or email

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topics,
please contact the RTP Resource Center at
877.584.8535, or email

The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect
the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.