May 19, 2022

Herren Project to Offer Mental Health First Aid Training Nationwide

Herren Project is Part of a National Initiative to Increase Mental Health Literacy

In response to our nation’s mental health crisis, Herren Project is proud to announce it now has two certified instructors to bring in-person and virtual Youth Mental Health First Aid and teen Mental Health First Aid training to communities nationwide. This groundbreaking skills-based course gives people the tools to identify, understand and respond to someone who might be struggling with a mental health or substance use challenge — and connect them with appropriate support and resources when necessary.

One in five Americans has a mental illness, and the pandemic has dramatically increased depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. Many are reluctant to seek help or don’t know where to turn for care. Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges can be difficult to detect. Friends and family members may find it hard to know when and how to step in. As a result, those in need of mental health services often do not receive care until it is too late.

Just as CPR helps even those without clinical training assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid prepares participants to interact with a person experiencing a mental health crisis. Mental Health First Aiders learn a 5-step Action Plan that guides them through the process of reaching out and offering appropriate support.

“Never has it been more important for our communities to talk about mental health and substance use,” says Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, which helped bring Mental Health First Aid to the U.S. in 2008. “This program is breaking down barriers and stigma so that together we can learn how to better support one another. Without mental health, there is no health.”

In just 12 years, Mental Health First Aid has become a full-blown movement in the United States — more than 2.5 million people are certified Mental Health First Aiders, and that number is growing every day.

Herren Project has been a leader in the addiction and substance use prevention field for over 11 years. Our founder, Chris Herren, began openly sharing his story in 2011 with the release of his ESPN 30 for 30 Unguarded and memoir Basketball Junkie. Herren Project was started to keep this conversation going to create a safe environment to provide the resources and support for those struggling with substance use disorder.

In 2014 Herren Project brought this conversation to young people to talk about the importance of mental health, substance use, and the first day of addiction. Starting with the THP Project Purple Initiative and its “Be You” message in 2014, it has been retired and reimagined through Herren Project Clubs, a peer-to-peer social-emotional learning initiative introduced in 2019. With over 255 clubs nationwide, they are designed to “be you” and empower youth to make healthy choices by positively teaching overall wellness and coping skills to cope with life’s challenges while remaining substance-free.

“Partnering with the National Council for Mental Well-Being to offer Youth Mental Health First Aid and, more importantly, teen Mental Health First Aid will strengthen this critical initiative and its offering for schools and communities nationwide. Investing in this program was our responsibility, and we know we will have a significant positive impact on the prevention of addiction and improving overall mental well-being. Most importantly, it will help save lives.” Bonnie Sawyer, Executive Director

What is Youth Mental Health First Aid?

Youth Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training that teaches parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors and health and human services workers, and any other citizen how to identify, understand, and respond to an adolescent (ages 12-18) who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge.

What is teen Mental Health First Aid?

Teen Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training that teaches teens in grades 10-12, or ages 15-18, how to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of a mental health or substance use challenge among their friends and peers. The program equips young people with the knowledge and skills they need to take care of their own mental health and support each other, including how to get the help of a trusted adult.

“The current gap in mental health and behavioral health services compelled Herren Project to expand our prevention outreach and strengthen protective factors among adolescents. As part of our model for community impact, we aim to enhance the network of support for teens. We believe it is critical to offer both Youth and teen Mental Health First Aid to increase the number of first aiders in a teen’s life to help identify and respond to challenges before they become crisis situations, resulting in more fulfilling lives for teens now and carrying into adulthood.” Trica Mansfield, Director of Programs and Partnerships

For more information or to bring Mental Health First Aid training to your community, visit or contact Naomi DeSantis, Prevention Education Specialist, at

Mental Health First Aid

For more information on Mental Health First Aid USA and The National Council for Mental Wellbeing, visit