The Importance of Mental Health First Aid


Some of us may have taken a CPR or First Aid course. Over the years, I have taken several CPR/First Aid courses, but I have never needed to use what I’ve learned. I haven’t done more than offer someone a Band-Aid, or told my step-daughter to ice a sore knee after volleyball for “twenty minutes on, thirty minutes off.” Yet there is still valid reason for taking these courses; in case of an emergency, it is imperative to have some basic knowledge which could save someone’s life. The always be prepared Girl Scout motto finds it’s full application in these kinds of situations.

Recently, I became certified to teach Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). To quote MHFA USA, Mental Health First Aid is:

the help offered to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis resolves.[1]

Mental Health First Aid is vital to include in our training toolbox because 1 in 5 adults in the US this year will experience a mental health disorder. Basically, we all know someone who has been affected by mental health disorders. Just as our physical health changes through different seasons, we can also be affected at different times by varying amounts of mental health challenges.

With this training, we have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those around us by helping to identify if they are in crisis and connect them with appropriate help. This has the same lifesaving potential as a CPR class considering one example of extreme mental health could be thoughts or attempts of suicide. MHFA prepares how to help even in the most extreme situations.

Other ways you will be trained to help in are: panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, non-suicidal self-injury, acute physchosis (e.g., hallucinations or delusions), overdose or withdrawal from alcohol or drug use, and reaction to a traumatic event. Having opportunities to prepare through role play, scenarios and activities are what really assists to apply the skills needed in real-life.

When you take MHFA you will learn an action plan that can be applied to the situations listed above. The next class we are offering will be at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church on May 13th & 14th. For more info and to sign up for this course you can email Dawn Zern. Additional courses will be offered throughout the year. To get on the list to find out when classes will be offered you can email Dawn, or go here to find other classes.

-Dawn Zern

[1] MHFA Definition taken from MHFA teaching slides.

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