The following interview is part of a new series to highlight the remarkable work efforts of our credential-holders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Name: Colleen Hendon, MPH CHES®
Job Title: Program Manager
Years’ Experience: 7
Career Sector: School Health/College Health
“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important- in particular for adults who work with youth- to be able to recognize mental health challenges and know how to respond.”
~Colleen Hendon, CHES®
NCHEC: What is your current job title and what sort of duties do you complete during the course of your work?
Colleen: My job title is Program Manager, and I work for The Ohio State University College of Public Health. I spend a big chunk of my job applying for and managing state and federal grants to be able to provide workforce development trainings and program for Ohio's communities. We have several grants that allow us to provide the evidence-based training, Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to Ohioans.
Not only do I coordinate trainings for OSU's MHFA program, but also I am one of Ohio's top nationally trained Instructors for both Adult and Youth MHFA. A majority of our trainings are held with schoolteachers, personnel, and other adults who work with youth to make sure they are aware of the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders and teach them a 5-step action plan to support the youth and get them linked with appropriate professional help.
Another key part of my job is assuring that the trainings that we do provide, especially MHFA, are facilitated in a culturally sensitive way and inclusive of LGBTQ+ youth as well as Black, Indigenous and other Youth of Color. I developed the Ohio Youth Mental Health Collaborative, which consists of professional across the state of Ohio who work with youth and youth development to assess trainings such as Youth MHFA for the inclusiveness of the program.
NCHEC: How has your role changed as a result of COVID-19?
Colleen: The biggest change with my role with the onset of COVID-19 has been facilitating trainings virtually. One new responsibility amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been being a support person for my fellow MHFA instructors. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing (overseer of MHFA), not only adapted the program to a completely virtual format, but also revamped the curriculum towards the end of 2019. I have help several calls and Zoom sessions to demonstrate the new curriculum and virtual setup of the training and have provided support to fellow instructors so that they are better prepared to facilitate MHFA virtually and in an inclusive manner.
NCHEC: Can you give an example of how your organization is providing health education & support to Ohioans?
Colleen: Through several federal grant opportunities, OSU has been providing free Youth and Adult MHFA trainings to communities, schools, families and students throughout Ohio. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important (in particular for adults who work with youth) to be able to recognize mental health challenges and know how to respond. Mental Health First Aid is a course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.
NCHEC: Have you seen positive change in public and community health over the past year?
Colleen: Definitely! I have seen so many other public health professionals offering their expertise around varying public health topics, especially around mental health. The virtual format of our world has allowed so many passionate health education and public health professionals connect with communities all over the country.
NCHEC: Do you have any advice to share with other certified health education specialists, or young practitioners in the field?
Colleen: Find the health topic(s) that you are most passionate about, and learn as much as you can around the topic and get involved with organizations and communities to share your knowledge.