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By Ann B. LeWalk, HFA Vice President for Education

It is safe to say that throughout the past 18 months, most of us have become increasingly aware of the importance of fostering and maintaining our own mental health, while also trying to look out for that of others. We have also come to know that 鈥済ood health鈥 includes both physical and mental well-being.

While new and emerging treatments continue to be developed to address the physical effects of bleeding disorders, the psychological effects of chronic health issues, coupled with the isolation of a pandemic, can be more difficult to identify and treat.

The words 鈥渃ommunity鈥 and 鈥渇amily鈥 are often used to describe the relationships among people with bleeding disorders. And, with community, comes a strong sense of responsibility to look out for one another because when one part of the community is struggling, the whole community feels the strain. We know how to assist when members are struggling financially or how to educate when information is what they need. But too often, we feel powerless when someone is struggling with a mental health challenge.

After listening to the community, the member organizations, board members and staff, Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA) decided it was time to open up a dialogue about mental health and well-being in the bleeding disorders community.

HFA wanted to begin its commitment to mental health and well-being by providing an opportunity for members of the bleeding disorders community to learn skills they could use in all aspects of their life. Knowing this community likes to take action and make an impact, HFA saw a great opportunity in working with the National Council for Behavioral Health to train community members in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).

Since the course鈥檚 inception in 2008, 2.5 million people in the U.S. have participated. The vision of this educational program is to ensure that mental health first aid is just as commonplace as CPR. The opportunity, brought to HFA by Debbie de la Riva, LPC, certified MHFA instructor and community member, allows us to offer this internationally renowned program with a unique focus on the bleeding disorders community.

The training provides participants with knowledge regarding common mental health conditions, how to identify when someone is struggling emotionally and how to communicate with someone in despair. In addition, the curriculum provides training on suicide prevention and information on national mental health resources for care and support.

Thanks to financial support from Colburn Keenan Foundation, since April 2021, HFA has supported the training of 36 individuals from across the United States who are community members, member organizations鈥 staff, hemophilia treatment center (HTC) staff and HFA staff. There are two more trainings this year鈥擲eptember 25 and November 13鈥攐pen to anyone in the bleeding disorder community who is 18 or older. This means people with bleeding disorders, as well as parents and caregivers, HTC staff, member organization staff, etc.

The aim is to create trained MHFA ambassadors across the country who can serve to support and assist local community members who may be struggling with mental health concerns. These ambassadors are not meant to replace professional care; they are meant only to assess, listen and stay with someone until professional help arrives or appropriate resources can be found.

By making Mental Health First Aid training available to the bleeding disorders community, HFA hopes to begin a movement in which members of the bleeding disorders community have the knowledge and the skills to support each other through mental health challenges.

Learn more about the training at www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org. And apply for HFA MHFA Training on September 25 at bit.ly/HFA_MHFA.


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