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First Aid for Mental Health


First Aid Training for Mental Health.
Learn the 5-step plan to help distressed individuals in need.

Illustration credit: Joyce E.M. Wall

A FREE training program that addresses mental health issues was offered in June 2010, by Birmingham Group Health Services, Inc. (BGHS), Ansonia, Connecticut. They plan to run the program again in August 2010. The educational program is called Mental Health First Aid USA (MHFA). It is an international program operated by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare and is designed to bring public awareness to mental health issues. It helps people to recognize and understand the signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders and how to respond to them.

The highly interactive 12-hour, 3-day course (spread out over 3 weeks) presents a comprehensive view of the risk factors, warning signs, and treatments associated with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Areas of focus include depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, psychosis, eating disorders, and tobacco, drug and alcohol consumption. The Mental Health First Aid Action Plan is applied to each of these situations. The mnemonic used to remember the procedure is ALGEE. This 5-step action plan is applied to each illness and disorder and is used in practice extensively throughout the course.

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

This is a highly informative and beneficial course for people of all ages and any profession as it provides the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to aid an individual in a crisis situation. Completion of the course results in Mental Health First Aid certification, which is good for 3 years. The information obtained from this course allows you to assume a helpful role when you encounter a distressed individual. When you respond to the situation as a Mental Health First Aider, you are minimizing the person’s distress by approaching them in an informed manner and helping them to help themselves. Your role is valuable in offering support as it is cultivating wellness, self-care, and providing coping skills that, ultimately, enhances the wellness of others.

Copyright ©2010 Joyce E.M. Wall


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