FIRST AID FOR THE BRAIN
BY ALEX MALM
Across the country each year, thousands of people are trained in First Aid and CPR.
The goal of the courses is for people in the community to be trained on what to do if someone has a medical emergency.
For many, this is just a routine part in order to get a job or to continue working in a current job.
When it comes to mental health though, there aren’t many trainings which are offered.
That’s beginning to change, however.
In Southeast Minnesota, many mental health organizations like Rochester Family Services, offer trainings, which train people in the community in what is known as Mental Health First Aid.
Like a First Aid or CPR course, mental health first aid is an eight-hour course, but unlike CPR or first aid, a person is learning about what to do in a mental health crisis or how to help someone with a mental health issue.
And as research has shown, these courses work to help empower people when they help others with a mental health crisis or problem.
“The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it does build mental health literacy, helping the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness,” said Alicia Bartel, the Clinical Academy Director, for Rochester Family Services.
As someone who trains community members on MHFA for youth, some of the main things that people see as a good thing is the fact that they are becoming educated on the varied signs and symptoms of mental health issues.
One of the biggest positives about the training Bartel noted is that it teaches people in the community how to be proactive when it comes recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health.
“Mental health is so prevalent today, and MHFA is much like CPR. People need to know how to notice signs and symptoms, how to reach out using a 5-step action plan, and get a person connected to appropriate help,” Bartel said.
Another big part of the trainings is that there is a lot of role playing, and different scenarios so people in the community can get confidence and more empowerment when they are helping those in need.
“I think that people feel confident that they can make a difference,” Bartel explained.
Just like CPR and first aid trainings, one of the goals for places like Rochester Family Services and other mental health entities is to teach people in the community how to be a trainer for the MHFA, so more classes can be offered.
“Our vision is to get more and more people trained so we can have more courses,” Bartel said.
One of the biggest positives about the training that Bartel indicated is that it teaches people in the community how to be proactive when it comes recognizing signs and symptoms of mental health.
For Bartel, she feels that it’s important that one day, people are required to become mental health first aid certified, depending on one's job, just like requirements to be First Aid or CPR certified.
“It’s a societal shift,” Bartel said, “some jobs require people to be CPR and First Aid trained, my hope is one day that depending on your job you would need a mental health first aid training as well,” she added.
One day, the goal for many in the mental health profession is for MHFA to become as common as CPR or First Aid.
“Our vision is for MHFA to become as common as CPR and First Aid training. That means having regular courses offered in every community across the US,” Bartel said.
Overall, Bartel hopes no matter what people become more educated about mental health and the issues that people face since it’s such a big part of society.
To sign up for a course go to https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/take-a-course/ and click on find a course. You can search your zip code and surrounding areas.
Reasons to Become a Mental Health First Aider
When a mental health crisis happens, know what to do
You can help
People with mental illnesses often suffer alone
Mental illnesses are common
1 in 5 adults in any given year
Be there for a friend, family member, or colleague