Learning the language of Mental Health First Aid

As program manager for the College of Public Health’s Center for Public Health Practice, Colleen Fitzgibbons, MPH, CHES, oversees CPHP and Ohio State Extension's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Mental Health Awareness Training grant to provide youth Mental Health First Aid training to communities throughout Ohio.

By: 

  • Erinn Aulfinger
March 21, 2019
Colleen Fitzgibbons, MPH, CHES, program manager for the Center for Public Health Practice
Colleen Fitzgibbons, MPH, CHES, program manager for the Center for Public Health Practice

Colleen Fitzgibbons’s burgeoning passion for initiating conversations regarding mental, physical and emotional health started during her undergraduate days at Bowling Green State University, and inspired her to go to Kent State for her master’s in public health.

Fitzgibbons joined the College of Public Health’s Center for Public Health Practice (CPHP) as program manager in 2016. She now oversees CPHP and Ohio State Extension's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Mental Health Awareness Training grant to provide youth Mental Health First Aid training to communities throughout Ohio.

This program administers instruction and workforce development to public health practitioners and educators who interact with youths to better prepare them to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and to know how to react to these challenges as they arise.

“In middle schools, high schools and even colleges and universities, we see signs of mental health crises pop up,” Fitzgibbons says. “Teachers are with the kids more than the parents are half of the time. Recognizing the symptoms, intervening and making sure a child gets help is important because the sooner someone gets help, the better the outcomes for recovery.”

Throughout the three-year grant period, Fitzgibbons, alongside 438 Mental Health First Aid instructors in Ohio, hopes to train 1,300 people in 12 counties and provide them with resources to “learn the language” necessary to interact with someone struggling with mental health.

“Mental health is a public health issue,” Fitzgibbons says. “When there are mental health and substance abuse problems that go unrecognized and untreated, more issues arise not only for that individual but for families and communities as well. Everybody is impacted.”

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About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 23rd among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report, and also includes the top 7-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice (CPHP), and Center for the Advancement of Tobacco Science (CATS).