Make a Difference: Be a Mental Health First-Aider

in Blog
October 22, 2015

header-crisisImagine that you and your family are enjoying a pleasant summer day at your company’s annual picnic.  Everyone is having fun: the adults are playing volleyball, the children are enjoying the playground equipment, and there is plenty to eat. Suddenly, your co-worker sprains an ankle, but someone attending the picnic has had First Aid training, and your distressed co-worker receives quick, competent, basic medical aid until he or she can seek professional medical care.  With the prevalence of First Aid training in our society, perhaps multiple “someones” step in to assist.

Now imagine a family member, friend, or co-worker is experiencing a different kind of distress.  You’ve noticed that she is isolating herself from others, is tearful or angry, has had significant changes in her appetite, smells of alcohol after lunchtime, has made odd statements, or is demonstrating other behavioral and emotional changes that cause you to feel that something just isn’t right. What do you do?  You want to help, to provide the same competent assistance you would if she was experiencing a physical injury or illness, but you don’t know what to do to help, or even how to talk to her about your concerns. You might even simply try to ignore her.

Fortunately, FREE training is now available to provide the basic skills for anyone to respond to a person experiencing a behavioral health crisis.

Mental Health First Aid was first developed in Australia in 2001, due to the recognition that wide open spaces might mean a person experiencing symptoms of a behavioral illness might not have ready access to professional care. The program has proven so valuable that it has spread across the globe. During an 8-hour class, attendees learn how to recognize and provide assistance to a person experiencing the feelings and behaviors associated with depression, suicidality, anxiety, self-injury, psychosis, or a substance use disorder. Additionally, the training also explains when placing a telephone call to crisis services, the police or ambulance – rather than approaching the person – is the most appropriate intervention.  Mental Health First Aid training does not replace the care of medical and psychiatric professionals, but rather provides the suffering person with competent, basic assistance until he or she can receive professional help.

While Mental Health First Aid training is available to anyone, it has proven especially useful for teachers, police officers, fire department personnel, paramedics, and others who often find themselves responding to behavioral crises.

As a service to our communities in both northern and southern Weld County, North Range Behavioral Health provides this training free of charge to individuals, agencies, organizations, and businesses. We will also provide personal trainings to groups of 15 or more. You can register for a class here, www.mhfaco.org/find-class or call us at 970.313.1150 for more information. As the Greeley Chief of Police Jerry Garner says, “The more people who are trained to recognize and respond to behavioral health issues, the safer our community will be.” Join the hundreds of Americans who can respond with sensitivity and knowledge to those in crisis: be a mental health first-aider!

Pamela Collins Vaughn, MA, LPC