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Mental Health First Aid: Knowing how to help makes all the difference

Meenal Khajuria, Community Engagement Specialist — May 8, 2019 — 3 min read
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s important to know what resources are available so that we as a community can improve our understanding of mental health.
 
It starts with accepting that mental illness impacts every one of us. With the great weather, many of us may feel that our mental health is at its peak, which is great news. At the same time, it’s likely that someone you know — a friend, loved one, coworker, or neighbor — is facing a mental health issue right now. Despite the warmer, longer days, and extra sunshine many among us are silently struggling to overcome a mental illness.
 
Knowing what to say, what not to say, and how to respond when someone needs help can make a real difference in their lives.
 
That’s why we offer training to help people learn more about mental health. Our free classes, which are taught at local community and wellness centers throughout the counties we support, help show what it’s like to face mental illness and teach how to help. To make it interesting, we include lots of activities, such as role-playing and simulation exercises, and we spend time talking together about what it all means.
 
Mental Health First Aid classes help people understand when someone is facing a mental health crisis and give them skills and resources needed to get people the right support at the right time.
 
Mental Health First Aid training gives an overview of what mental illness is, how many people it affects, and the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses. We talk about the stigma around mental health. We also encourage people to open up and share their own experiences if they feel comfortable, which helps makes the training more personal.
 
Then we share a five-step action plan called “ALGEE.” It’s a helpful plan that prepares a person to respond if and when they are ever with someone who needs help. It includes:
  1. Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  2. Listen without judging
  3. Give comfort and information
  4. Encourage help from experts
  5. Encourage self-help and other support plans
 Next, those steps are put into action with a role-playing exercise. Doing so helps people practice their skills so they’re ready to respond in a true crisis situation.
 
Mainly, the class is meant to offer our community new understanding and find more positive ways to think and talk about mental health – this month and every month.
 
We also offer a lot of other classes. You can learn about self-care and how to manage stress. Or how to tell if an elderly loved one might be considering suicide. You can also learn some basic work skills or take a class on how to find disability insurance.
 
Check out our events page for all the classes happening this month.
 
And if you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call us at 1-800-939-5911. The line is open 24/7, and we will pick up the phone within 30 seconds. We’re here to help.
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