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Grantee Spotlight: Partnership for Violence Free Families Works to Address Mental Illnesses

In 2014, 11% of Allen County adults had a period of two or more weeks when they felt so sad or hopeless nearly every day that they stopped doing usual activities. For youth in the county, this number represents more than one-quarter, or 29%, who reported they felt sad or hopeless. In 2014, the Health Assessment results indicated that 18% of Allen County 6th-12th grade youth had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year and 8% admitted actually attempting suicide in the past year. 

During National Mental Health Month in May – and every month – Partnership for Violence Free Families (PVFF), a coalition comprised of individuals representing more than 50 organizations in Allen County, works to support safe and healthy communities through awareness, education and prevention of important issues, such as mental illness. 

“Many individuals don’t have the mental health literacy or know what to do when they see someone suffering from a mental illness – but they understand and are even trained to perform Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR),” said Donna Dickman, PVFF executive director. “Our goal is to create the same level of understanding within our community and provide similar structured training to address mental health issues.” 

PVFF supports evidence-based programs to address abuse and mental health problems in five prevention focus areas, including child abuse, teen dating violence, child sexual assault, mental illness and suicide. One of these programs includes the highly-interactive Mental Health First Aid program, which is an eight-hour course that teaches community members (aiders) how to identify, understand and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses. 

In the adult Mental Health First Aid program, aiders learn about anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. Specifically, they learn to be health literate and how to react when they see someone with a mental illness. The program has a five-step action plan to help someone with a mental health problem or how to react in a crisis: 

  1. Assess for risk of suicide or self-harm

  2. Listen nonjudgmentally 

  3. Give reassurance and information 

  4. Encourage appropriate professional help

  5. Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Funding provided by The HealthPath Foundation of Ohio has allowed the Mental Health First Aid program to train nine instructors in a 40-hour course for adult mental health. Additionally, in the last 18 months, more than 380 aiders have been trained. 

For more information about the program, visit


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