By Alvin A. Reid | St. Louis American | Word In Black

This post was originally published on St. Louis American

Photograph courtesy of Places for people.

(WIB) – Illume: The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence will be offering free evidence-based trainings that will focus on identifying and responding to signs of mental illness and/or suicidality, and using compassionate listening, de-escalation, and referral skills.  They will also be able to offer follow-up availability to support you as you start implementing this learning.

Through Illume’s  Places for People (PFP), 350 people can receive free mental health trainings this year sponsored by a federal grant. Learning mental health basics could save lives and will be available to those who may otherwise not have access.

“Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has given us an unbelievable opportunity to give more of our St. Louis neighbors what they need to succeed when they are presented with a mental health crisis. Fear because of lack of knowledge or preparation does not have to be your story. We’re here to empower you,” Illume Manager Cara Zitko said.

Here is the schedule, with a maximum of 30 participants:

Monday, March 20th – Mental Health First Aid – Adult

Thursday, April 6th – QPR Suicide Prevention

Friday, April 14th – Youth Mental Health First Aid 

Saturday, May 20th – Mental Health First Aid – Adult

Saturday, June 17th – Youth Mental Health First Aid 

Monday, July 24th – Mental Health First Aid – Older Adult

Saturday, August 5th – QPR Suicide Prevention 

The Mental Health First Aid trainings will provide targeted information for youth, adults of all ages, educators, and law enforcement.

Monthly and private trainings are available for free to the first 350 participants each year from 2023- 2026 but require registration by visiting

Illume is one of two organizations in the St. Louis area chosen to receive multi-year funding to provide Mental Health Awareness Trainings (MHAT).  This includes teachers and school personnel, caregivers of youth with SEO, faith-based social service organizations, criminal justice system workers, first responders, and homeless service providers.

SAMHSA’s investment in this initiative will help save lives, and therefore, benefit those trained and their surrounding communities. Illume looks forward to being a part of making that benefit a reality and continuing to reduce stigma and increase awareness around mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. According to the 2021 provisional data from the CDC, 47,646 people died by suicide, up 3.6% from 45,979 in 2020.

Advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the largest suicide prevention organization in the United States, met with lawmakers to urge them to prioritize suicide prevention and mental health initiatives for Missouri residents.

“State Advocacy Day is one of the most impactful; this is a time our stories of loss and lived experience are heard by legislators and the impact by suicide on our lives can been seen. This is a day of change and a day of hope for a future where those struggling with poor mental health and thoughts of suicide have meaningful access to resources.,” said Whitney Boyer Shumway MO Chapter Board of Directors President.

Advocates met with their public officials to make the case for policy changes backed by research. The goal of these conversations is to help lawmakers understand that investments in mental health and suicide prevention can and do save lives.

They are part of a larger national movement of thousands of AFSP volunteer advocates who will visit state capitals across the United States in spring 2023.

In 2020, 73.1% of the United States did not have enough mental health providers to serve residents, according to federal guidelines. Among adults with a diagnosed mental health condition, 43.8% did not receive mental health services in 2021.

In 2022, AFSP conducted a Harris Poll in which more than half of respondents said that not knowing  how to get help keeps people from seeking help and only 1-in-3 people say they can identify the warning signs. AFSP advocates will raise awareness of the state actions, resources, and investments needed to support the thousands of Missouri residents affected by suicide and mental health conditions each year. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. This year, AFSP recognizes 35 years of service to the cause. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide.

For more information you can also reach the Missouri Area Director, Phyllis Blackwelder, at 314-703-1600.