Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield addresses mental health crisis by providing Arkansans free mental health first aid certification

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (February 24, 2023) — According to government findings, one in five Americans lives with a mental Illness. More than 120 die by suicide every day. In an effort to save lives and improve the wellbeing of Arkansas communities, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield announces Take Good Care: Mental Health First Aid.

Throughout 2023, dozens of mental health first aid classes will be offered around the state free of charge. Participants do not need to be Arkansas Blue Cross members. Classes will be taught by instructors with the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, providing certification through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

“For years, we have been committed to addressing behavioral health needs and normalizing the conversation around mental health in Arkansas,” said Arkansas Blue Cross President and CEO Curtis Barnett. “As we enter our 75th year of serving Arkansans, we have a goal of providing this important training to at least 750 people statewide. We believe knowing mental health first aid is as important as knowing CPR and can save lives.”

Through the Mental Health First Aid certification course, participants will learn how to recognize signs of mental health or substance use challenges in adults ages 18 and older, how to offer and provide initial help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate care if necessary. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, psychosis, and addictions.

“The availability of Mental Health First Aid training through this initiative will address the immediate need to equip a large number of individuals in how to recognize the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and provide early intervention,” said Mellie Bridewell, President and Founder of the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership. “Individuals completing MHFA training can act as ‘gatekeepers’ in their communities to assist those needing mental health intervention. The more of these gatekeepers we have in place, the healthier our communities can become and the more lives we can save.”


Participants seeking certification will complete two hours of online pre-work, followed by a six-hour, in-person class. Lunch will be provided. Classes will be offered each month,


through September, in Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, Texarkana, Jonesboro, Fayetteville, Rogers and Fort Smith. More classes will be added in the coming weeks in additional communities. To find a schedule of classes and complete the free online registration, visit

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