AUSTIN (KXAN) – Amid the growing prevalence of mental health conditions, exacerbated by the pandemic, the Austin City Council approved Thursday its support of an initiative to increase the number of community members able to respond to mental health incidents.

Mental health issues have been increasing worldwide, per the World Health Organization. Further, around one in five adolescents have a mental health condition, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.

One resource available in Central Texas to help community members help people showing signs of mental illness or a substance use disorder is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, an eight-hour training, similar to CPR, that thousands of Austinites have already undergone. 

“Mental Health First Aid training is an invaluable resource that gives people the tools needed to identify, to understand and to respond to signs of mental illness,” District 2 Council Member Vannessa Fuentes said at a news conference on May 10. 

“We all know someone –  either a loved one, a friend, or someone we work with – that is struggling with their mental health,” Fuentes continued. “This is one way – a proven way that is shown to increase mental health literacy, decrease negative stigmas, and increase social behaviors towards people experiencing mental health issues.” 

Austin City Council approved on consent its support of the Community Advancement Network’s (CAN) effort to train an additional 1,000 Central Texans in MHFA and 100 by June 1. 

CAN is a partnership of over 25 of government, non-profit, private and faith-based organizations working together to increase wellness in Central Texas. Executive Director Raul Alvarez of CAN said at the May 10 conference that it will achieve its goal of increasing the number of people trained in MHFA by challenging its partners to encourage more employees to sign up. 

“When it comes to mental health and wellness, we need all hands on deck,” said Raul Alvarez, Executive Director of CAN.