Chenango Health Network Offering Free Mental Health First Aid Training
Published: February 19th, 2024
By: Sarah Genter

Chenango Health Network offering free Mental Health First Aid training The scope of a mental health first aider from the Mental Health First Aid certification pre-course work. Mental health first aiders do not diagnose or treat mental health disorders, but instead act as a form of triage to help others through a mental health or substance use challenge, and connect them with professionals and resources if needed. (Photo from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing)

CHENANGO COUNTY — The Chenango Health Network is offering a free virtual Adult Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certification training on February 25 and 26 from 9 a.m. to noon.

The course is open to adults aged 18 and older. Participants must complete two hours of coursework 48 hours before the first session begins, and they must attend both classes to receive a certificate. To register, contact MHFA Training Coordinator Tiffani Gager at 607-337-4233 or

Mental Health First Aid training focuses on what mental health challenges or substance misuse might look like, resources for individuals struggling with mental health or substance use, and how to help someone experiencing these challenges.

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"We want to see people be their best for themselves and to be happy and healthy," said Gager. "When they're not at their best, we want to see them reach out to us so we can be that point A and B between things, that safe space, and help them access those supports and resources that might be able to do a lot more than we can."

The class utilizes videos, knowledge checks, and group activities to teach the material. Participants will learn how to safely assess a situation, approach an individual with a calm demeanor, recognize when someone is at risk of self harm or suicide, confidentiality, and how to provide support, whether that be connecting an individual to further resources or just being a listening ear.

"It talks about self harm, it talks about breaking down the different kinds of diagnoses for mental health and substance use. It talks about suicide, and it talks about what that might look like and how it’s important to ask someone if you feel they might be at the risk of harm or suicide," Gager explained.

The class also places a big emphasis on self care, to help mental health first aiders recognize when they need support or a break to take care of themselves.

"We all forget that we are deserving of self care, especially after helping someone through a challenge, or even just on a regular day. It’s so hard to stop and say, I deserve 10 or 15 minutes just to myself, whatever that looks like," Gager said.

"It does bring that self awareness when one bad day turns into a bad six weeks. So it brings up that self awareness of okay, I’m assessing myself, I need some supports too. Alright, so now I have a list of supports, what does that look like for me? What kind of support do I feel I would benefit from?"

The class covers different styles of self care, and gives participants the opportunity to make their own list of strategies and activities to refer to when they're in need of self care.

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Gager said during the sessions participants are also encouraged to share stories or how they're feeling if they want to, or take breaks if needed.

"We provide a safe, non-judgmental, person-first space to come into. I always let people know that what we’re going to be talking about can be really, really heavy, and we’re going to be using some language that can spark some really big emotion. So if at any time you need that extra support, we are here for you, and we will happily talk with you anytime you need it and support you in any way we can," she said.

Chenango Health Network regularly offers free MHFA certification classes geared toward mental health first aid for adults and children. Visit the Chenango Health Network Facebook page for information on upcoming classes.

Gager said the virtual classes are open to everyone 18 and older, whether they live in Chenango County or not. She is also able to schedule private trainings for local businesses and organizations, virtually or in person, for free.

"I am so passionate about this and I want to get it out to as many people as we can," said Gager. "The more people that have this information and have these tools, the more we can help."