In an effort to promote mental health awareness and education, there are now free trainings available for certification in Mental Health First Aid. The eight-hour course, which first originated in Australia, is designed to provide participants with a credential, similar to CPR certification, that gives them the tools to assist a person experiencing signs of a non-violent mental health crisis.
Mental Health First Aiders can be a bridge to professional services but also offer support with the knowledge they obtain from training. The information can assist those who work in relevant fields but can also be used by neighbors, friends, coworkers and relatives of those who are challenged by a psychiatric illness.
I attended one of the trainings in Philadelphia over two days in September. The material is presented in a way that makes it understandable to experts and beginners alike. Rather than focusing on every possible circumstance, the curriculum includes things that statistics show are more likely to occur. Identifying anxiety, schizophrenia and substance use disorder are the primary topics when specific conditions are discussed.
The course made it clear that to be a successful Mental Health First Aider, the most important points were personal safety when entering a situation and communicating with the person in crisis with compassion and a lack of judgment. Along with increasing the number of people with knowledge of how to help someone in crisis or will a psychiatric illness, the course works to reduce the stigma of mental health diagnoses in our society. The course is well worth the time, and it’s free.
According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, over 700,000 people had taken this training and over 10,000 people were qualified instructors as of 2013. If you would like more information on how to become a certified Mental Health First Aider or about the history of Mental Health First Aid, please visit the websites below.
— Mark Cahoon BA, MHFA
Behavioral Health Technician Lead Supervisor
Pyramid Healthcare – Langhorne Inpatient