Mental Health Association of Maryland

Archive for Community Education & Training

My Experience in a Mental Health First Aid Maryland Training Class


A few weeks ago, I joined the Mental Health Association of Maryland as its communications director. One huge reason I came to work here was the opportunity to share what MHAMD does all across the state of Maryland.

As I learned more about MHAMD, I became very intrigued by one of its programs called Mental Health First Aid Maryland.


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The Hummingbird Study investigates treatment for postpartum depression


postpartum depression new momAbout The Hummingbird Study

The Johns Hopkins Women’s Mood Disorders Center is one of the several sites participating in The Hummingbird Study, a new clinical research trial with Sage Therapeutics to study postpartum depression. The Hummingbird Study’s purpose is to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of an investigational medication in women with moderate to severe postpartum depression. The research study lasts about 37 days and includes a screening visit, a 3-day, in-patient hospital stay and four follow-up visits. The Women’s Mood Disorder Center is actively recruiting new moms, up to six months postpartum, to participate.

Postpartum depression in new moms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, postpartum depression is a biological complication of pregnancy. During pregnancy, levels of certain hormones rise and then rapidly fall after giving birth. However, in some women, these hormone shifts may contribute to postpartum depression. Research indicates that between 15 and 20% of new moms struggle with postpartum depression.

The Mental Health Association of Maryland’s Healthy New Mom’s Campaign is interested in the outcomes of the Hummingbird Study, happening across the country. The preliminary results from the project have been very positive and we are hopeful for more informative data as the trial adds more subjects.

Learn more about the Hummingbird Study at For more information about postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, visit To learn more about MHAMD’s Healthy New Moms Campaign and our outreach across the state, please visit,

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School Nurses Certify in Youth Mental Health First Aid


Howard County Public Schools trained 120 nurses and other health staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid ® in the last few months. These health professionals are now better prepared to recognize the risk factors and signs of mental health problems in youth and have additional resources to provide help.

Why school health professionals?

School health professionals are a particularly crucial audience to reach with Mental Health First Aid, according to Lea Ann Browning-McNee of the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD). “They are often the first to see patterns in students, to have discussions about both physical and emotional pain, and may feel like a ‘safe’ adult for a student to confide in.”

Donna Mazyck, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses agrees, told NPR last year that “School nurses are the detectives in that school. They’re the eyes and ears of public health.”

Youth Mental Health First Aid, an internationally-recognized certification, helps school health professionals expand their skill set – enhancing their hearing and vision so to speak, as participants learn to assess what they hear from a student and what changes they may see in a student’s behavior. In addition, the course focuses on what to do to help students, whether it’s simply serving as a supportive listener, helping a student learn strategies for managing stress or connecting a family to school or community-based evaluation, treatment or support services.

“Howard County Public Schools joins other districts, such as Charles and Harford County, who have also trained health staff,” says Jennifer Treger, director of the Mental Health First Aid Maryland program at MHAMD. “We are lucky that Maryland is part of a federal grant that supports training for educators and school health professionals, as well as coaches, administrators and others who engage with students.”

Teaching Youth Mental Health First Aid through the MD-AWARE program

MHAMD coordinates the school-based trainings in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education’s MD-AWARE, part of the “Now Is the Time” federal grant program administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Mental Health First Aid training is available to schools and their partners across the state, and MHAMD is set to train another 100+ school health professionals in late summer as part of the state’s School Heath Interdisciplinary Program conference.

Kerrie Wagaman, RN, MSN, coordinator of health services for Howard County Public Schools, says “The Mental Health First Aid Course provided the staff of registered nurses and health assistants extra resources to continue keeping our students safe.”

More than 23,000 Marylanders are certified as Mental Health First Aiders. To learn how you can bring Youth Mental Health First Aid to your school, visit

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5 ways you can raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Week


This week, September 5-11, individuals and organizations are sharing personal stories, information and resources on social media for National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in Maryland and the numbers have increased in recent years. What can you do to raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Week? Here are five simple actions that you can take now to spread the word about suicide prevention.

Maryland Facts National Suicide Prevention Week

Join the National Suicide Prevention Week conversation on social media

It’s easy to share information and meaningful stories during National Suicide Prevention Week. Consider sharing your personal story about the impact of suicide or re-post an infographic like the ones you can find at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP). And don’t forget to use any of the campaign hashtags: #NSPW16, #StopSuicide, #BeThe1To or a hashtag for each day of the week.

Download the “There is Hope” App

Keep a quick reference on the risk factors and warning signs for suicide as well as tips on how to talk with someone who may be considering suicide with the “There is Hope” app. There’s even a suicide risk self-assessment. There is Hope was just released in Maryland during the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s kickoff event for National Suicide Prevention Week. Download “There is Hope” and share with friends or family.

Get involved locally

Register for an event in your community. Consider signing up for a Mental Health First Aid® course or one of the many local Out of the Darkness walks. Learn more about Mental Health First Aid in Maryland here.

Tune in to the World Suicide Prevention Day Twitter Chat

On Friday, September 9, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will lead into World Suicide Prevention Day with a Twitter Chat. Tune into this event, cosponsored by several national organizations such as Mental Health America, The Jed Foundation and Active Minds. Join the discussion using the hashtag #BeThe1To.

Take or share MHAMD’s free mental health screening

MHAMD offers a free, anonymous and confidential mental health screening for individuals who are concerned that they may be experiencing mental health complications. Brief screenings are a quick way to determine whether you or someone you care about should connect with a mental health professional. MHAMD recently updated the screening with more options and availability in Spanish. Take the screening or share the link with those you care about.

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Join MHAMD’s volunteer Citizen Action Team


9-23-15 Citizen Action Team logo FNL PMS 405c 518c


Want to learn more about behavioral health topics? Interested in volunteering with the Mental Health Association of Maryland? Join the Citizen Action Team!

The Citizen Action Team brings together consumers, providers, advocates, and passionate individuals to help those living with mental illness and addiction pursue fulfilling lives. With the Citizen Action Team, you will have the opportunity to learn about behavioral health topics, attend trainings, educate communities, and volunteer with MHAMD. Be sure to join the Commit2Five campaign, a branch within the Citizen Action Team, to receive weekly emails with 5-minute change-making advocacy activities.

On April 30, 2016 we held our first orientation of 2016. We are excited to add five newly trained volunteers to the team. This new group learned about MHAMD programs and participated in a lively discussion about how they wanted to spend their volunteer time. Everyone had a great time at the mock health fair and can’t wait to staff their first one!

The beauty in joining the Citizen Action Team is that you choose educational and volunteer opportunities that spark your interest and highlight your strengths; you can dedicate as little or as much time as your schedule will allow. Current volunteers conduct research, assist with material development and social media, plan and attend community events, and participate in advocacy efforts.

We will hold another volunteer orientation in June, more details to come. Sign up for the Citizen Action Team soon!

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Guest Post: “Celebrating through Art!” – Carrie McGraw, Maryland Department of Disabilities



The Children’s Mental Health Matters Campaign, coordinated by the Mental Health Association of Maryland and the Maryland Coalition of families, helped to plan this event to kick off Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in Maryland.

“Governor Hogan declared May 1st through 7th Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in Maryland.  To bring recognition to this campaign, Mrs. Hogan hosted a youth art display at the House Office Building in Annapolis.  Celebrating Through Art:  The First Lady’s Youth Mental Health Awareness Art Display grand opening and reception was held on May 2nd and welcomed over 175 student artists, teachers, service providers, and state government officials.  The youth were asked to depict something which made them feel mentally happy, healthy, and hopeful.  Forty-four students participated from thirty schools throughout Maryland.   Youth artists with and without disabilities came together as one artistic voice to highlight the importance of good mental health for all children in Maryland.

The Maryland Department of Disabilities, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-Behavioral Health Administration, Maryland State Department of Education, Mental Health Association of Maryland, Maryland Coalition of Families, and the Center for School Mental Health have partnered on this initiative to bring attention to the need for unified and aligned strategies when addressing children’s mental health needs in our state.      

The art show will run May 1st through May 12th at the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis.  We are extremely proud of all the student artists and very appreciative to Maryland’s First Lady for being our gracious host.  Please enjoy our captioned slide show of the reception and many pieces from the display at the below link.

Thank you to the participating schools and programs:

Alexander Hamilton Elementary School

Arundel Lodge

Augusta Fells High School for Visual Arts

Baltimore Lab School

Crofton Middle School

Dr. Carter G. Woodson Elementary and Middle School

Forbush School Glyndon

Foundations School

Franklin Middle School

Franklin Square Elementary and Middle School

Glenelg Country School

Green School of Baltimore

Hampden Elementary and Middle School

Maryland School for the Blind

North Hagerstown High School

Old Mill High School

Park School

Parkdale High School

Perry Hall Middle School

Queen Anne’s County High School

School of the Incarnation

St. Elizabeth School

St. Paul’s Lutheran School

Sudlersville Middle School

The Frost School

Villa Maria School

Village Academy of Maryland

Wade Elementary School

Windy Hill Elementary School

Worthington Elementary


Thank you to:

Wimsey Cove Framing and Art


Bel Air String Quartet

Violins – Catherine Huang (Science and Math Academy at Aberdeen High School) & Morgan Bair (Bel Air High School)

Viola – Leah Rolf (Bel Air High School)

Cello – Melissa Baum (Bel Air High School)” 

— Carrie McGraw, Maryland Department of Disabilities

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Crisis Intervention Training


Since 2005, the Mental Health Association of Maryland (MHAMD) has chaired the Maryland Mental Health and Criminal Justice Partnership (MHCJP). The MHCJP – which includes representatives from state agencies, local correctional facilities, the judiciary, advocacy organizations, providers and more – has worked over the past decade to improve services and break the cycle of rearrest and reincarceration for individuals with mental illness who become involved with the criminal justice system.

The implementation of Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs) in every jurisdiction across the state has been a primary MHCJP objective since the beginning. At its core, CIT is a partnership between law enforcement, behavioral health providers and advocates to assist and divert individuals in crisis, resulting in less lethal interventions, better outcomes, and increased safety for all involved. In recent years, efforts to expand the availability of these programs throughout Maryland have been helped by a CIT subcommittee of MHCJP which has, among other things, worked to coordinate efforts among local partners, assist in plan development, and bring law enforcement and behavioral health professionals together through a series of relationship-building forums. To date, eleven jurisdictions have implemented some form of CIT program, up from five only a year ago.

Last week our efforts received another huge boost. Along with our partners at the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) and the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions (PCTC), MHAMD organized a CIT Train the Trainer event led by Major Sam Cochran, a national expert in the field of crisis intervention. Maj. Cochran and his team from the University of Memphis CIT Center spent two days training a core group of local law enforcement and behavioral health partners on strategies for teaching de-escalation techniques and designing an effective curriculum, with a goal of building an expertise and capacity in Maryland that will allow for more regional and local CIT training. A key barrier to implementation in rural areas and smaller jurisdictions is an inability for law enforcement personnel to take time away from their duties to attend a CIT training in a distant part of the state. With this new training capacity, jurisdictions that are currently struggling to begin a CIT program will have access to training and to acquiring the skills required to successfully conduct future trainings themselves.

CIT TTT - Full Class.2            Role Play CIT Training

The full class of newly-trained trainers, and learning de-escalation training techniques through role playing.

MHAMD is proud to be a part of these efforts to improve the way communities respond to individuals in crisis. Anyone that would like more information on our efforts through MHCJP or the CIT Subcommittee can contact Dan Martin, MHAMD’s Director of Public Policy, at

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Learning Life Lessons from Our Veterans


In 2014, a group from the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET) in Baltimore City attended a mental health presentation provided by MHAMD at an annual conference entitled “Why Women Cry.” The rookie MCVET case manager took note that many in the group were uneducated about the very mental illnesses from which they suffered. She was inspired and within a few weeks, she arranged for MHAMD to provide bi-weekly classes to teach the students at MCVET about important behavioral health issues.

The veterans in the MCVET program are called students. They are individuals who have served our country at various levels and who have, in recent years, hit hard times including homelessness. Most of the students experience mental illness, substance use disorders or both. All of them come to MCVET to get their lives on a healthier path and to realize fuller potential. They abandon rank (from a military perspective) and band together in a higher mission – to learn necessary skills and strategies to meet new life goals.

As the MHAMD staff person teaching the MCVET classes on behavioral health, it took only one class for me to learn that the interactive format would place me in the learner’s seat and enable the students to provide the real lessons.

It is humbling to hear from the men and women who are beginning the walk of recovery in the most real sense. It is maddening to hear the internalized stigma and contrition of these individuals who express deep shame for the road they’ve been trudging – the other end of the road they bravely patrolled for me and for my country.

I am always struck by the humility and respect the students show to each other in acknowledgement of individual worth and personal growth. Despite their self-doubt and bruised psyches, they serve as model warriors, delving into self-reflection and deeper contemplation of the experiences they’ve endured on multiple battlegrounds. It is very hard and tiring work for people who find each day to be hard and tiring. Yet, each student endures his or her own epic struggle for self-sufficiency, autonomy and, ultimately, serenity.

Along the way, the experienced students pull the newer students up and into a brighter life. In each class, I benefit from that same pull and I have been stretched to a much greater appreciation for the depth of sacrifice, persistence of bravery and heroism of recovery taught to me by the students at MCVET.

I haven’t been to MCVET after a summer hiatus. I think it is time to return for more lessons.

— Kim Burton, MHAMD’s Director of Older Adult Programs

Happy Veterans Day to all who have served, and for the sacrifices made by their family members.

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