Placer County to offer free mental health training

Mental health first aid classes welcome public enrollment
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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When: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 21-22

Where: Chapa-De Behavioral HealthActivitiesCenter in Auburn, 11670 Atwood Road

Cost: free


Experts say mental health care providers need to reach more people with education and services, and Placer County Health and Human Services is stepping up to the plate.

The county will sponsor a free 12-hour mental health first aid training course next weekend, open to anyone 18 and older and facilitated by Chapa-De Behavioral Health Activities Center in Auburn.

The first of three annual training sessions is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. March 21-22, with registration limited to 30 and two more sessions tentatively slated for June and September. By the end of the second day, students are meant to have a working knowledge of common mental health problems, their potential risk factors and warning signs, a five-step response plan and professional care options. Certification expires every three years.

In a press release, program supervisor Cyndy Bigbee said mental health first aid training teaches a person to assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis but is not intended for major emergencies.

“Mental health first aid is not a substitute for professional help and should not be tried in dangerous situations, but can be very effective in many situations helping a person until professional help is available,” she said.

Bigbee will co-instruct the course with client services practitioner Tom Drake, who said the county started offering the classes in 2011 with no requirements of previous experience or education in the field.

“It’s really designed for the lay person,” he said. “It’s education about the different mental health problems, and that they can happen to anybody.”

Placer County Mental Health Director Maureen Bauman said up to a quarter of the national population has a diagnosable mental health issue of some kind, so people should be at least as conversant with mental health tips as with physical ones.

“This is going to provide people with some skills and abilities to better understand mental illness, which a large percentage of our population has,” she said. “There’s stigma around mental illness, and part of this is to get people more information so we break down some of that stigma, but really it’s about giving people skills so they feel comfortable helping those people that are around them to get to the right resources.”

To register for the course, contact Drake at or call (530) 886-3413.