Denise Hensley for Church Health's Behavioral Health team assists a participant during a recent Mental Health First Aid training at Crosstown Concourse.

Denise Hensley for Church Health’s Behavioral Health team assists a participant during a recent Mental Health First Aid training at Crosstown Concourse.

Did you know that you are more likely to encounter someone experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis than someone having a heart attack?

The good news is that you can help. Since 2015, Church Health has equipped people throughout Shelby County with the skills necessary to respond to mental health emergencies through a unique Mental Health First Aid USA® (MHFA) training program. Mental Health First Aid teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders in their workplace, congregation and community.

In addition, they’re given tools to connect those suffering with appropriate professional, peer, social or self-help care.

Church Health is called to offer hope, care and healing to individuals and families suffering from mental health issues. With the help of our Memphis faith community and supporters like you, we offer MHFA free-of-charge to empower our community to respond and to reverse the negative stigma surrounding mental illness.

The National Council for Behavioral Health certifies individuals throughout the nation, including Church Health staff, to provide Mental Health First Aid courses to arm communities with the knowledge and skills to help individuals who have a mental health problem or are experiencing a mental health crisis. Both Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid are on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.

Jessica Ball serves as a Teen Services Librarian for Memphis Public Libraries. Ball recently completed MHFA training at Church Health.

Jessica Ball serves as the Memphis Public Library’s Cordova Branch Teen Services Librarian. In this role, she learned about a community Mental Health First Aid training at Church Health.

“I thought it was important for my job – and my community, really – to be trained in Mental Health First Aid, so I could be prepared for whatever I might encounter,” Ball explains. “Libraries serve everyone in the community, and with that, we get a lot of diversity and encounter people in different mental states. It’s important for all librarians and anyone who interacts with the public to go through Mental Health First Aid, because you never know who will walk through the door each day.”

Public libraries have become open, inclusive resource centers for communities across the country; they do far more than lend out books. According to a Brookings Institution report, few librarians were trained to handle many of the issues and requests they now often encounter, such as providing guidance or resources for substance abuse and mental health issues.

Although Ball only recently completed training, she says she has already had instances when she’s put her MHFA skills to use on the job. Not long after completing the course, she was confronted by a library visitor in an agitated state.

“Before I approached him, he was yelling at me and was extremely defensive. I immediately knew that his response to me was likely a result of a trauma he had been through. I knew I didn’t need to take his behavior personally. I attribute my response to MHFA, because before going through training, I would have taken it personally.”

Ball encourages coworkers and friends to take advantage of Church Health’s MHFA program, because it’s accessible and has had a positive effect on her.

“It’s not just about the other person you might encounter – it’s about you, too. Being trained and educated to respond to an immediate mental health need gives you confidence and emboldens your compassion.”

Church Health partners with local congregations and community organizations willing to host workshops in their facility. The local faith community – whether temples, churches or mosques – bring awareness, urgency and understanding of common mental health conditions and crises to their staff, members and neighbors.

St. Andrew AME Church’s Senior Ministry Coordinator, Katherine McDaniel was eager to participate in a recent MHFA training at her church. Located in the heart of South Memphis, St. Andrew AME offers over 50 ministries and focuses on community outreach.
“Church Health is one of the many partners who have collaborated to minister to Memphis: spirit, soul and body,” said McDaniel. “I believe all institutions serving the general public, and persons who are caregivers, should take advantage Mental Health First Aid. It’s an awesome resource!”


Whether you’d like to attend an upcoming MHFA training at Church Health, host a training at your facility, or sponsor a community training or facilitator certification, there are a variety of ways to advance Mental Health First Aid at Church Health.

1. Attend an MHFA training at Church Health. Log on to to view upcoming trainings. Preregistration is required.
2. Host a training at your facility. Church Health will offer MHFA free-of-charge at your facility. We ask that you provide:
• Room capacity to seat 30 people for eight hours during a work day
• Projector, screen, and hookup to display a PowerPoint with sound. A blank wall will work in place of a screen.
• Opening prayer offered by your clergy or staff
• Willingness to commit at least two staff and/or members from your congregation to attend the training
• Onsite lunch and refreshments
To host Mental Health First Aid, please contact Faith Community Engagement Coordinator Lauren Hales at 901-701-2254 or
3. Make a donation to Church Health to help us expand Mental Health First Aid training across our community. Please contact Jenny Koltnow, Director of Communications and Development at Church Health, at or 901-701-2177 for more information.

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