Doris Knight Taylor staffs the front desk at the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s Parks Francis Center, which helps women facing domestic violence, homelessness and unemployment.
Taylor estimates that about one-third of the 80 walk-ins she sees each week at her job may also be dealing with a mental health issue. For the first few months on the job, Taylor admits that she was afraid to talk to many of the women coming through the door.
“My mind was full of those images you see in the movies, showing people with schizophrenia as violent,” she observes. As a medical assistant at a local hospital she had been taught to subdue psychiatric patients, but never received any training about mental illness.
All that changed when Knight enrolled in C4’s Mental Health First Aid, a 12-hour training that helps non-mental health professionals recognize symptoms of mental health problems and direct people toward treatment.
“MHFA changed the way I think about people with mental illness,” says Taylor, who is among 1,300 staff members of homeless shelters, schools, day care centers, hospitals, and other social service agencies trained by C4 since 2008. The interactive training covers depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, self-injury and substance use.
Like Taylor, many MHFA graduates testify that the training has had a profound impact in their professional and personal lives. The YWCA employee says she put her training into practice when she was able to listen non-judgmentally to a woman who revealed she was bipolar and off of her medication. Taylor convinced “Sandra” to use the YWCA phone to contact C4 for professional help. After several weeks of treatment at C4, “Sandra” is now stable and functioning well.
“This is one training that will follow me forever,” Taylor observes.