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Certified! Transition Coaches Become Certified Mental Health First Aiders

By Angela Charlton, PhD and James Thrash
Managers of Player Engagement

"I am honored to be chosen as a transition coach for my colleagues in the NFL. I have always been an ear for my teammates and been able to give them advice from my perspective. I am excited to take it to another level; being able to identify possible crisis situations in early stages and provide sound tools to benefit players from the extensive training I have received."

– Tony Stewart, 9-year NFL veteran

“This training is great! Through the NFL Transition Coaches training we are not only learning skills for our individual lives, but we're learning new tools that give us the ability to properly assist our NFL brothers and their families.“

     – Donovin Darius, 10-year NFL veteran

We are excited to announce that after completing the second round of training in preparation to become Transition Coaches, nine former players recently became Certified Mental Health First Aiders by completing a 12-hour Mental Health First Aid Training program facilitated by MHFA Master Trainer, Mary Cimini, MA, MSW, CPC.  3-year NFL veteran Freddie Scott II, stated, “The information we are receiving is potentially life changing! Not only for me, but for the men and families we have the opportunity to engage. “

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a groundbreaking public education program (administered by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare in Washington, DC) which introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and overviews common treatments. MHFA has been rigorously evaluated and is proven to reduce stigma associated with mental illness. By recognizing common signs and symptoms of mental illness, Mental Health First Aiders can enable early detection and intervention, thus reducing the damaging effects of mental and emotional challenges such as job loss, relationship issues, and drug and alcohol problems.

Over the course of the two day training, the Transition Coaches engaged in intense discussions, role-plays and simulations intended to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect persons to professional, peer, social, and self-help care. They learned about the risk factors and warning signs of depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. The Coaches were also taught to implement a five-step action plan, ALGEE, to support someone developing signs and symptoms of mental illness or an emotional crisis: 

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

The stigma surrounding mental illness often prevents members of our immediate and NFL families from seeking help or even acknowledging that they need help. Our newly-certified Mental Health First Aiders are well-equipped to address that stigma as well as to serve as the conduits to the care that can preserve a life, a relationship, and a sense of well-being.

12-year NFL veteran and Manager of Player Engagement James Thrash states, “Going through the training to be a transition coach has been a great experience. I am thrilled to be a part of a program that has potential to make a huge impact. We have heard over and over again how effective the peer-to-peer mentoring is.  Its effectiveness comes from sharing with someone who has faced the very challenges that you are facing. Personally, I am excited to gain the necessary skills to assist my brothers in their transition and walking alongside them so they know that they are not alone.”

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