Becoming a Mental Health First Aider and Being the Difference for My Community

How you too can make a difference

Written by Celeste Chism, Northern Arizona University Class of 2019


For two years I served as a peer mentor, coaching first-year students and students on academic probation at Northern Arizona University. My main job was to help them understand how to be successful in college. Many times, however, my conversations with these students addressed the large, unwanted elephant in the room: their mental health.

I have coached students who were sleep-deprived, depressed, anxious, suffered schizophrenia, showed signs of being suicidal, had been emotionally/sexually abused and worst of all, those who didn’t have a support system. In the worst of cases and outside of my experience, the university has had students successfully complete suicide.

Recently, I completed an 8-hour Mental Health First Aid® training that addresses mental health concerns. What is so special about the course is that it sheds light on the fact that professionals are not the only people who can help; anyone can support someone in crisis or experiencing challenges. The course focuses on bettering an individual’s “noticing skills” and providing one with the necessary tools and action plan so they know when to intervene and how to intervene.

As a young adult, this training was invaluable to me because I am still interacting with the world’s future workforce and leaders on a daily basis. It is not only students who are affected, but many people of all ages across northern Arizona. Mental health is a team effort; as humans, it is our duty to care about one another, and becoming a Mental Health First Aider is a great first step. It is so empowering to know that I can be the difference in the life of someone else, just as others have been for me. The Mental Health First Aid course is free, so take advantage of this opportunity so that you, too, can make a difference.

To become a Mental Health First Aider, register for a free Mental Health First Aid class. To learn about courses available in northern Arizona, visit

Sandra KowalskiComment