How Fairview Is Leading on Mental Health Literacy

Guest blog post by Beth Thomas, DO

Mental illness affects 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—nearly 44 million people–every year. Yet, far too many—up to two thirds—go without treatment. In part, this is due to a knowledge gap. A majority of people—parents, teachers, first responders, friends—simply do not know the signs of mental illness or how to help someone facing a mental health crisis.

Fairview is tackling this important issue by improving mental health literacy in communities across Minnesota through an education program called Mental Health First Aid.

Mental Health First Aid is an internationally recognized, evidence-based program managed by the National Council for Behavioral Health. It is an eight-hour course that helps participants identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and addiction.

Through group discussions and exercises, participants learn the risk factors and warning signs for mental illness and addiction, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, where to turn for help and non-judgmental communication and listening skills.

The course is provided to community members free of charge thanks to funding from Fairview Foundation donors.

Expanding our reach

We are significantly expanding the reach of Mental Health First Aid across Minnesota by sponsoring “train-the-trainer” courses (in partnership with NAMI and the Stairstep Foundation). We recently trained 26 individuals, who now will be teaching the course in Twin Cities metro and outstate communities. Our goal is to serve these communities with instructors from diverse backgrounds.

In addition, we are providing customized Mental Health First Aid courses for first responders (such as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians), in partnership with the League of Minnesota Cities.

Who should attend this course?

The course is for anyone who wants to learn how to provide initial help to someone who may be experiencing symptoms of mental illness or in crisis. It gives people tools to help friends, family members, colleagues, or others in their community.

Register today

Mental Health First Aid teaches about recovery and resiliency—the belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well.

Visit for more details and to register for a free Mental Health First Aid course. And, if you have questions, call Fairview’s Community Health team at 612-706-4566 or email

Beth Thomas, DOBeth Thomas, DO, is interim chief medical officer at Fairview Health Services. She is responsible for improving communication and collaboration among employed, academic and independent physicians/advanced practice providers across Fairview and driving improvements leading to better clinical outcomes for our patients. Beth also is a general surgeon with Surgical Consultants in Burnsville, Minnesota. Beth earned her medical degree from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency at New Britain General Hospital, University of Connecticut.

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