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Mental Health First Aid

Each year, more than one in five Americans experiences a mental illness or substance use disorder. Yet, as a society, we remain largely ignorant about the signs and symptoms, and don’t know how to help a person in need. Our lack of awareness often prevents people who need treatment from getting appropriate care.

This is where Mental Health First Aid comes in. Created in Australia in 2001 by Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education, and Anthony Jorm, a mental health literacy professor, Mental Health First Aid training has taken root in the United States in the past few years. More than one million people have been trained in the 8-hour course.

Mental Health First Aid provides proven practices that will help participants recognize the early signs and symptoms of mental illness and substance misuse. Participants will learn how to listen without judgement, and respond to and help someone in distress until they can get the professional care they may need.

“The truth of the matter is that you are more likely to encounter someone who is experiencing a behavioral health condition or crisis than someone facing a physical emergency”, said Laira Roth, the National Council for Behavioral Health’s project manager for the first aid course. (Source: Washington Post)

When you take a course, you learn how to apply the Mental Health First Aid action plan in a variety of situations, including when someone is experiencing:

  • Panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Acute psychosis (e.g., hallucinations or delusions)
  • Overdose or withdrawal from alcohol or drug use
  • Reaction to a traumatic event

The opportunity to practice — through role plays, scenarios, and activities — makes it easier to apply these skills in a real-life situation.

For more information, please see the National Council for Behavioral Health.

To find a Mental Health First Aid course near you, or to take the course virtually, go to the Mental Health First Aid Website.

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