Category Archives: Mental Health First Aid

First Spanish Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Since 2018!

Version en Español abajo

In true collaborative fashion, members of BHRS Office of Diversity and Equity came together with the San Mateo Office of Education to offer a Spanish Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training with only a month of planning.  The last Spanish YMHFA training offered was in 2018. 

The eight (8) hour in person course curriculum teaches how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges among adolescents ages 12 – 18.  At the end of the course, participants will be able to: 

  • Describe the purpose of Youth Mental Health First Aid and the role of the Youth Mental Health First Aider.   
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges that may impact youth.  
  • Explain the impact of traumatic experiences and the role of resilience on adolescent development.  
  • Apply the appropriate steps of the YMHFA Action Plan (ALGEE) to non-crisis and crisis situations.   
  • Choose appropriate methods for self-care following the application of Youth Mental Health First Aid in a crisis or non-crisis situation.  

The training was held over two Saturdays, February 11 and 18 with fifteen (15) individuals becoming certified as Youth Mental Health First Aiders.  We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Juan Cuba and Ivette Melendez who had to re-certify as Spanish YMHFA instructors in a very short time in order to teach the training. 

Another Spanish YMHFA training will be offered to Parent Project graduates and Health Ambassadors by the end of June. 

Here are several comments from the participants: 

  • “Instructors were very clear and knowledgeable about the topics and were great communicators and very dynamic.”
  • “This course was very valuable and it helped me a lot.”
  • “I learned how to listen without judgement, how to speak to youth and offer support.”
  • “You learn things you can put into practice in your family and all the people in our community.”

In community, 

Charo Martinez, Maria Martinez and Twila Dependahl 

De manera verdaderamente colaborativa, los miembros de la Oficina de Diversidad y Equidad de BHRS se unieron con la Oficina de Educación de San Mateo para ofrecer un curso de capacitación en Primeros Auxilios de Salud Mental de Jóvenes (PASMJ), en español, con solo un mes de planificación. La última vez que se ofreció este curso en español fue en el 2018. 

Este entrenamiento presencial de ocho (8) horas enseña cómo identificar, comprender y responder a los signos de retos de salud mental y consumo de sustancias entre los adolescentes de 12 a 18 años. Al final del curso, los participantes podrán: 

  • Describir el propósito de los Primeros Auxilios de Salud Mental de Jóvenes y el rol del Primero Auxiliar de Salud Mental. 
  • Reconocer los signos y síntomas de los retos de salud mental que pueden afectar a los jóvenes. 
  • Explicar el impacto de las experiencias traumáticas y la influencia de la resiliencia en el desarrollo de los adolescentes.  
  • Aplicar los pasos apropiados del Plan de Acción de Primeros Auxilios de Salud Mental (REDES) a situaciones de crisis y no crisis. 
  • Elegir métodos apropiados para el autocuidado, siguiendo la aplicación de Primeros Auxilios de Salud Mental de Jóvenes en una situación de crisis o no crisis.  

El entrenamiento se llevó a cabo durante dos sábados, el 11 y el 18 de febrero, y quince (15) participantes se certificaron en Primeros Auxilios de Salud Mental de Jóvenes. Nos gustaría expresar nuestro más profundo agradecimiento a Juan Cuba e Ivette Meléndez, quienes tuvieron que volver a certificarse como instructores en español de PASMJ en muy poco tiempo para poder dirigir esta capacitación. 

Se ofrecerá otra capacitación de PASMJ en español a los graduados del Proyecto de Padres y Embajadores de Salud antes de fines de junio. 

Aquí hay varios comentarios de los participantes: 

  • “Los instructores fueron muy claros, con gran conocimiento de los temas y fueron excelentes comunicadores y muy dinámicos.”
  • “Este curso fue muy valioso y me ayudó mucho.” 
  • “Aprendí a escuchar sin juzgar, a hablar con los jóvenes, y a ofrecer apoyo.” 
  • “Aprendes cosas que puedes poner en práctica en tu familia y en todas las personas de nuestra comunidad.”

En comunidad,  

Charo Martinez, Maria Martinez y Twila Dependahl 

BHRS ODE Builds Community Connections at “Caffeinate and Conversate with Canepa”

On Saturday, February 18th, San Mateo County Supervisor, David Canepa, hosted a “Caffeinate and Conversate with Canepa” event in Daly City, creating a space for a community conversation on mental health. Following the Half Moon Bay shooting and the recent storms in the Bay Area, it was great having the opportunity to learn from fellow mental health providers and advocates on accessing and improving mental health resources within San Mateo County.  

San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) Director, Dr. Maria Lorente-Foresti and Program Coordinator, Nicoletta Kelleher had the honor of presenting about BHRS services and resources. The presentation focused on Prevention and Early Intervention programs, youth and adult Mental Health First Aid, Workforce Education Trainings, Health Equity Initiatives and more. Throughout the presentation, attendees were referred to BHRS ODE’s program brochures and resources in order to ensure community members could easily access our services. The event also included contributions and resources from valued partners including Christi Morales-Kumasawa and Stephanie Garma Balon from KAPWA Kultural Center and Café, Virginia Chang Kiraly from National Alliance and Mental Illness (NAMI), and Fan Li from North East Medical Services (NEMS).

BHRS ODE is extremely appreciative to have had the opportunity to inform our community of our programs and services. We are grateful to Supervisor David Canepa and his team for inviting us to speak at this event, as well as creating a space for the community to voice their concerns and struggles following the recent traumatic events within our county. We look forward to participating in more events to help build community connections and the opportunity to amplify the voices of our underserved communities in order to make accessing behavioral health services more equitable and inclusive for all. 

To learn more about David Canepa’s past and upcoming events, visit his social media pages:

Written by Nicoletta Kelleher (she/her), BHRS’ Office of Diversity & Equity

Happy AAPI Heritage Month: Updates from the Pacific Islander Initiative

PII Co-Chair, Brittany Afu

This year, BHRS ODE’s Health Equity Initiative, Pacific Islander Initiative (PII) welcomes a returning co-chair, Brittany Afu, who is currently working with long-time partner, Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center. Luci Latu and Brittany have been focusing on rebuilding past partnerships and cultivating new ones to strengthen PII’s membership base.

Some of the initiative’s focus this year has been on COVID outreach – raising awareness around COVID testing, vaccines and linking families to COVID relief programs and services. Other focuses include outreaching for partner events and community classes, sharing information about services and completing community presentations to raise awareness on critical issues affecting the PII community.

Recently, the PII co-chairs presented to a class at UC Berkeley discussing Pacific Islander health disparities and how the initiative and other partnering agencies are developing strategies to address community needs. It is an ongoing effort, and we hope to make community impacts by filling future Parent Project courses, hosting Mental Health First Aid trainings and getting more families connected to needed care.

Blog written by Brittany Afu
Co-Chair of Pacific Islander Initiative of San Mateo County, 

To learn more about Pacific Islander Initiative and other health equity initiatives, visit

The Health Equity Initiatives are funded through BHRS’ Office of Diversity and Equity. For more information click here.

To learn more about Pacific Islander Initiative, visit

From Parent Project Graduates to Youth Mental Health First Aiders

Parent Project graduates taking Youth Mental Health First Aid

Parent Project graduates taking Youth Mental Health First Aid at Mills High School in April 2018

When parents and caregivers sign up to take the 12 week Parent Project course, they might not know what is in store for them. A sense of community is built in those short weeks and the knowledge gained sparks a deeper interest to continue learning to help others and their children.

By offering a Youth Mental Health First Aid training after Parent Project, parents and caregivers learn why knowing the signs of a mental health challenge or crisis, including suicide, can help their children. For many, their children are first generation U.S. born children, who face the challenges of growing up in a culture different from their parents. For many parents and caregivers attending the training, trying to understand the world their children are growing up in and finding the support from their peers in the room is the most beneficial aspect of their time in the class.

The Parent Project® is a free, 12-week course that is offered in English and Spanish to anyone who cares for a child or adolescent. For more information, please contact Frances Lobos at

The Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) course is an 8-hour public education training program designed for any adult working with or assisting young people, ages 12-24. For more information on Youth Mental Health First Aid, please contact Natalie Andrade at

To learn more about other programs and classes similar to these, visit the Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE)’s website here

Written by Natalie Andrade, YMHFA Program Coordinator

June 21 – Youth Mental Health First Aid Training

A young person you know may be experiencing a mental health condition or crisis. Teachers, staff, and our entire school community can help youth get the support they need early on and maintain a high quality of life.

In just one day, learn how you can help someone in distress and get the tools to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.

When? Thursday, June 21, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
San Mateo County Office of Education

Spots are still available, so be sure to register ASAP! For more information, contact Natalie Andrade or see the event flier.

FMHI and PII Collaborate to Host 1st Mental Health First Aid for API Community


On Saturday, April 21st, the Filipino Mental Health Initiative(FMHI) and Pacific Islander Initiative(PII) welcome all to attend this upcoming Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. 

This training is the standard MHFA training, but also incorporates Asian- Pacific Islander (API) culturally-responsive material: giving participants an opportunity to learn about how to help friends and family members, who may be experiencing a mental health condition or crisis, and get certified.

This event is of huge importance for San Mateo County’s API community for a few reasons. SMC’s API community continues to have a lot of stigma around mental health; there remains a division between SMC’s API community; and there is not much available data and resources around mental health for the community. 

The goals of this event are to:

  • Decrease stigma around mental health in the API community
  • Build solidarity among APIs
  • Bring visibility to API communities to gain more data and resources around mental health Read more

Youth Mental Health First Aid Training- Register by May 17

A young person you know may be experiencing a mental health condition or crisis. Teachers, staff, and our entire school community can help youth get the support they need early on and maintain a high quality of life.

In just two half days, learn how you can help someone in distress and get the tools to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders.

When? May 24 & 31, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Participants must attend both dates to receive certification.
Where? Half Moon Bay Library

Please register by May 17, 2018. For more information, contact Natalie Andrade or see the event flier.

Empowering Communities Far From Home

Written by Natalie Andrade, Mental Health First Aid


Philippine Consulate’s Mental Health First Aid Training on January 27th.

The Office of Diversity and Equity (ODE) was invited to the Philippine Consulate on Saturday, January 27 to provide a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to consulate staff. The Philippine Consulate provides services to Filipino Nationals in the San Francisco Bay Area. The day was filled with rich conversation about the struggles of feeling homesick and how this can affect one’s mental health, which is a taboo and stigmatized topic in the Filipino community. A participant stated that she was able to feel a connection to the information provided due to the cultural piece both instructors integrated in the course.

The word “homesick” is defined as the experience or longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it. When people leave their home countries, the sense of loss and homesickness is commonly felt. Homesickness is the word used by Philippine Consul General, Hon. Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. in his opening speech during the training to staff to describe the challenges they, as a community, often face when living away from home.

Read more