VersAbility Staffers Newly Trained Mental Health First Aid Trainers

JJ Byrd and Lara Zawacki hold a new certification as staff members at VersAbility Resources and it’s one they are qualified to teach others.

Byrd and Zawacki are certified in Mental Health First Aid Training under a program administered by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. Just as CPR assists an individual experiencing a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid assists someone experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis.

“Some of the biggest goals are to eliminate stigmatism, to provide holistic approaches and self-help,” Byrd said.

Thanks to their training, Byrd and Zawacki plan to teach VersAbility’s Direct Support Professionals and other staffers what they learned about disabilities that include autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and the signs to look for during a crisis.

The training teaches how to respond depending on the presenting behavior.

“The main goal is listening to the person and let them know that someone cares,” Byrd said. “Then it can evolve into a conversation about resources they can use. It’s very much about community and medical resources. There are no diagnoses made.”

The evidence-based programs from the Council are designed for adults, teens, caregivers, veterans, law enforcement, EMS personnel, school faculty and more. More than 2.6 million people are trained to help their peers, neighbors, colleagues and friends in a campaign touted as #BeTheDifference.

Byrd said after rolling out Mental Health First Aid to the nonprofit’s staff later this summer, ideally they would expand the training to external groups.

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