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The Community Training Department - Empowering with knowledge

As The Harris Center’s crisis division, the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) provides services to individuals in Harris County experiencing a mental health crisis.  From its 24-hour Crisis Line to its internationally-recognized collaborations with law enforcement, the CPEP is constantly working to reach those who need help.

“The Harris Center is very good at intervention.  We know that for every person who dies by suicide, there are hundreds of people living with suicidal thoughts who do not make an attempt,” said Crisis Line Director Jennifer Battle, LMSW.  “As an agency we wanted to know how we could do more, and we determined we needed to look at prevention via education and awareness.”  


And that is exactly what was done when the Community Training Department was created.


“The purpose of the Community Training program is to help people become more aware of the symptoms of mental health concerns and the various types of brain illness and mental illness that exist. [As well as] to really focus on specific action steps that people can do to prevent suicide,” Battle said. 


The department educates individuals and organizations on risk factors and warning signs for mental health crises and crises around suicide. Trainings include Mental Health First Aid, Youth Mental Health First Aid, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), Working Minds, safeTalk and ASK about Suicide to save a life. 


“We go out into the community and offer a lot of different programs for folks. Our primary focus is suicide prevention. It’s wonderful because I think it’s a bridge between The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD and so many facets of the community,” Community Outreach Trainer Carroll Campion Prasad, M.Ed., LPC, said.



There are many stereotypes about individuals with mental illness.  The stigma around it emerges “when an individual is set apart from others due to a psychiatric condition,” said Community Training Manager Jacinda Tucker, Ph.D., leading to fear, secrecy and shame and keeping individuals from obtaining needed care. 



 “Our department helps reduce the stigma of mental illness by educating the community about the needs of those suffering with a condition,” Dr. Tucker said. “We want people to understand that mental illness is treatable.  People often recover from a mental illness and lead productive, engaged lives.”


Recently, the Community Training Department conducted a preliminary program evaluation to better understand how school district personnel who participated in Mental Health First Aid trainings were implementing the skills they learned. 


“During Fall semester of the 2016-17 school year, 80 percent of respondents reported using their Youth Mental Health First Aid skills with a student,” Dr. Tucker said.


“A student was saying she didn’t want to live, and had been cutting [on herself] and was depressed. I was able to intervene with the student and her parents, and they started seeing a therapist,” reported a Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainee. 


This is exactly the kind of impact the Community Training Department aims to have.


“We are so much more than just one thing as people. We may have a mental illness, but we are not a mental illness,” Prasad said. “That’s just a part of who we are.” 


For more information on participating in a training or hosting a training, you may contact the department at


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