Anyone Can Be the Difference: Mental Health Crisis Training in Action

Stacey Howard, Community Operations Executive Support Professional — December 5, 2018 — 3 min read
When I first started working with Community Operations in March 2017, I never thought I would have a need for Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) or Person-Centered Thinking (PCT) training. I’m just an Executive Support Professional. Why would I need that? Yet, here I am, over a year in, and I’ve not only taken all three of them, I have used them in everyday life.

It was a Monday morning that began as any other and quickly turned into something special for me. I, Stacey Howard, Executive Support Professional, was able to help someone. I took the light rail in just like every other day, but when I crossed MLK Boulevard from the train platform to the Charlotte Convention Center, the day became anything but ordinary for me. I noticed a man in his 40s having a very distressing and agitated conversation with someone he truly believed was there with him. He was alone, flailing his arms and yelling at the air. A few people walked by him, ignoring the fact that his pants were falling off and he obviously had on no under clothes. Many others crossed the street to avoid him and their own obvious discomfort.

I get it. Three months ago, I too avoided someone similar in downtown Concord because I didn’t know what to do in that situation. After discussing that incident with my boss, Anna Marshall, she encouraged me to take MHFA. Thanks to her and my fellow Community Operations colleagues, I was able to help this stranger that most obviously needed a helping hand.

This time was different. This time I knew how to help. I dialed 911 and when asked if I needed “police, fire, or medic,” I calmly and confidently told dispatch that I needed a Crisis Intervention trained officer and possibly medic. Dispatch quickly got both on the line so that we were all on the call together. I described not only what the gentleman was wearing and where he was headed, but I was able to describe his behavior. I stressed to them that he had not approached anyone in anger and only seemed to perhaps be a danger to himself. I also told them I did not believe a substance use issue was the reason for his behavior. They asked me if I felt comfortable approaching him and I told them while I was not comfortable doing that, I would follow at a safe distance until they arrived.

I followed him down MLK to Brevard, over to Third Street, and then at the corner of Third and South Caldwell, both medic and police arrived. While I didn’t stay to see what happened, I did call the Mecklenburg County non-emergency number later that afternoon to ask about the man. As I expected, they could not give me an update due to privacy laws, but after researching the call, they thanked me for my help that morning.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a C-suite level executive or any level support professional – we can all be the hand that helps someone when we see them in need. We just need to be equipped with the knowledge to help. So yeah, I’m Stacey Howard, Executive Support Professional, but I’m also Stacey Howard, human being with a heart who likes to help people that may not be in a position to help themselves. And now, thanks to MY EMPLOYER, I know how to do just that!

About the Author: Stacey Howard is an Executive Support Professional with Cardinal Innovatoins Healthcare. She is certified in Crisis Intervention Team training, Mental Health First Aid, and Person-Centered Thinking.
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