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Mental Health First Aid Training Saves Lives Too

Johnson Memorial Health on Feb 3, 2020

You know something is wrong with your family member, friend or co-worker. He or she seems depressed or is sometimes acting irrationally.

Though a physical ailment could be causing the behavioral issue, it could be a mental illness.

What should you do? How can you help? Is there a way to provide first aid - similar to giving CPR to a heart attack victim? The answer is yes.

According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, one in five Americans has a mental illness and many are reluctant to seek help or might not know where to turn for care.

Detecting mental illness can be challenging. Unfortunately, people who suffer don’t get the proper help that could improve their quality of life or prevent a tragedy.

“As a society, we largely remain ignorant about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, and we ignore our role as responsible community members to help people experiencing these illnesses,” writes the NCBH on its website.

Unlike physical first aid programs taught for decades at schools, Scout meetings and in community groups, we previously did not educate people how to assess and provide initial support for mental illness. After all, behavioral health carries a stigma.

Fortunately, in 2015, the federal government passed the Mental Health First Aid Act which provided up to $20 million in grants to conduct training throughout the country. The goals of the training are to:

  • Recognize the symptoms of common mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
  • De-escalate crisis situations safely.
  • Initiate timely referral to mental health and substance abuse resources available in the community.

Today, more than 750,000 emergency services personnel, police, educators, primary care providers and others have received this training.

Why is this so important? An estimated 10 million Americans struggle with some sort of mental health issue in a given year, including depression and anxiety. Tragically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 41,000 commit suicide annually – making it the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States.

Mental health advocates want to make Mental Health First Aid steps to be as familiar as CPR. The training focuses on the acronym ALGEE:

A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm.

L: Listen non-judgmentally.

G: Give reassurance and information.

E: Encourage appropriate professional help.

E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training helps you identify, understand and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses. 

Click here to find a local course

Providing greater access to behavioral health services has become a priority of Johnson Memorial Health.The Johnson Memorial Health Foundation supports the cause during its annual gala event in February.