Mental Health First Aid- training in Cincinnati and Harrisburg


August 3, 2017

Participants during MHFA training.
Photo: Khem Rizal

Bhutanese Community of Cincinnati (BCC), Ohio and Catholic Charities at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania organized Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)- training on July 22, 2017, and July 28, 2017, respectively.


45 participants from different areas of work, age groups and locations in Cincinnati attended eight hours long session with enthusiasm at 7180 Pippin Road based BCC office building. “We tried our best to include participants from different places in the city of Cincinnati-keeping in mind- we have MHFA trained volunteers available in each location when in need,” said Khem Rizal, the chief organizer of the training. Bhutanese American population resides in the areas like Forest Park, Fairfield, Finney Town, Hamilton, Green Township, Colerain Township, Springfield Township, Vine Street and West Chester in Cincinnati.

The Bhutanese community in Cincinnati is still in a transitional state with a new culture ahead for secondary socialization having very low English proficiency due to which life in the U.S. is challenging for them. Usually elderly and middle age groups from the community have mental issues in increasing rate. To recognize, provide first aid, and address this issue on time, BCC wanted to prepare sufficient first aiders by organizing this MHFA training and was successfully conducted with an overwhelming number of participants on that day, Rizal mentions.

BCC hopes to see reduced mental health stigma and suicide rate in the community after having 45 Mental Health First Aiders as they can recognize a person with any mental issue and can connect the individuals with professionals. The mental health issue is as similar as a physical health problem, but people hesitate to express the problem either in self or someone else due to the stigmatizing attitude. It can be treated the way we treat our physical illnesses. The problem is in hiding until it ripens which creates complications in treatment. This MHFA training mainly focuses in normalizing the issue making as common as other treatable physical illnesses. Around 73 trained MH-First Aiders are available, in case of need, in Cincinnati.


Participants during photo session in Harrisburg.
Photo: Tika Dhungana

A total of 33 participants including some high school students completed the eight hours long training in Harrisburg.

Bhawana Baskota, a high school student, expressed her experience saying, “The training was very informative, and the contents were so relevant to the situation we are experiencing in the community. The facilitators were well trained and very knowledgeable. The presentation was full of data and researched based information that has educated me in understanding the forms or the types of mental health illnesses. The rate at which our fellow community members taking their lives nationwide in the U.S. as compared to the average Americans is 20:12, which is a matter of concern, Baskota further said.

“The training provided by fellow Bhutanese facilitators was awesome with a lot of factual information about the mental health issues that have been a major concern in our community. This type of training will definitely increase awareness about the disastrous situation that may trigger the family left behind”, said Ram Giri, another participant of the training.

Tika Dhungana, an active community volunteer, sponsored the lunch for the training in Harrisburg.

This event was the second time organized in both the cities.

Parangkush Subedi from Office of the Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and Ashok Gurung from Pittsburgh facilitated the training in both the cities. The two bilingual facilitators have so far conducted MHFA training in seventeen different cities in the Nepali language alone and coordinated with refugee stakeholders in several other cities to organize the training for refugees and refugee serving staffs involving other trainers.

Khem Rizal from Cincinnati and Tika Dhungana from Harrisburg contributed to this report- Editor

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