It is with very heavy hearts that, once again, Colorado communities face the sadness, anger, confusion and grief of yet another tragedy. Some of us are directly connected to the recent violence at Arapahoe High School, and many are impacted and sympathizing from afar.  Mental Health First Aid is a response to Coloradans statewide asking the collective, immediate, and enduring question: What can we do to help?! 

Addressing the mental and emotional impact of tragedy and hardship is absolutely critical to healing as individuals and as communities.  Many of us may find ourselves in a situation where a colleague, a friend or family member is experiencing a mental health or substance abuse problem.  All too often, we may want to help, but simply don’t know how.

I often invoke the example of sitting across the table from someone choking. If you don’t know the Heimlich maneuver, all you can do is watch. The goal of Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health First Aid Colorado is to empower people to confidently make a difference.

Giving people the power to help is the precise reason many Colorado communities are making Mental Health First Aid a part of their response to tragedies. For example, the program has played a critical and ongoing role in supporting communities impacted by the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires, the Aurora movie theatre shooting, and this past summer’s devastating floods. Mental Health First Aid is first aid, for mental health emergencies.  The 8-hour certification course teaches attendees the signs of a mental health crisis and a 5-step action plan.

We’re not going to turn you into a therapist, any more than CPR will make you a doctor. Mental Health First Aid is all about giving you the tools to connect someone in an emotional health crisis to the support they need to recover.

Mental Health First Aid Colorado is particularly excited to be rolling out a new curriculum to reach Colorado’s youth. Since last spring, communities across the state have been pioneering Youth Mental Health First Aid, which is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis.

Colorado has a unique and nationally-recognized approach to implementing MHFA that brings together community members, healthcare providers, state agencies, educators, criminal justice and public safety professionals, first responders and statewide associations to serve as a formal MHFA Colorado Advisory Committee. Our efforts are two-fold: building a wide network of citizens who have the skills to reach out to those in distress; and assuring that Colorado is always known as a place committed to healthy living and building strong communities.

Mental Health First Aid is for everyone, indeed anyone who has a desire to help. Schools, communities of faith, first responders, business owners, families, and general members of the public: we all have an important role to play and the ability to help.

Take care of yourself. Take care of each other.

Warmest wishes to you and yours,
Brian Turner

Mental Health First Aid Colorado

Mental Health First Aid Colorado provides coordinated and strategic leadership, critical infrastructure, and the necessary implementation supports to facilitate the statewide growth of both adult and youth Mental Health First Aid. We are a coalition driven by community non-profit organizations and state agencies across Colorado, with leadership from the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council. The backbone of MHFA Colorado is a growing network of instructors that are trained to encourage public understanding and involvement through teaching the signs and symptoms associated with mental health and substance abuse issues.

To learn more about the Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid and to find a course near you, visit the Mental Health First Aid Colorado website at or email Mental Health First Aid Colorado at for information on how to arrange a certification course in your community.