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Mental Health First Aid training in NYC gets $5 million boost in funding, launches ad campaign

Almost 50,000 New Yorkers have already completed the eight-hour class, according to health officials.

NYC's 'Choose the Best Words' ad campaign is

NYC's 'Choose the Best Words' ad campaign is designed to encourage people to talk to their friends, family members or co-workers about mental health issues. Photo Credit: NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

The city is pumping $5 million into efforts to raise awareness of Mental Health First Aid training.

It also just launched a new ad campaign to help people talk to friends and family struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Mental Health First Aid trainings “provide proven practices that will help you recognize the early signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance misuse,” according to

The added funding will allow the city to translate training materials into languages such as Arabic, French and Haitian Creole and hold more free sessions around the city.

“Mental illness has long been the subject of hushed tones and that can prevent people from reaching out,” NYC Health Department Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a statement. “This expansion will allow us to offer Mental Health First Aid training across the city in more languages and during schedules that work for all New Yorkers.”

The “Choose the Best Words” ads, seen in subways, bus shelters, newspapers and on social media, feature short comic strip-style narratives between two characters.

In one, a woman approaches another woman sitting downcast on a sofa. Her original thought bubble reads “What’s wrong with you.” But it’s crossed out and replaced by “You look upset. Do you want to talk?”

Another shows what appears to be two co workers — one clearly unshaven and stressed out. “Try not to think about it,” his colleague says but that is crossed out and replaced with a more empathetic “I get how hard it can be.”

The campaign and training is geared to help people identify and understand mental health issues. City Health Department officials said close to 50,000 New Yorkers have taken the eight-hour Mental Health First Aid class since it started in 2015.


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