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We routinely learn how to use first aid techniques in case of a medical emergency.
So why not learn how to use first aid techniques in case of a mental health emergency?
That’s the focus of Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings, which will be offered by Community Advocates Public Policy Institute’s Elysse Chay and Jeremy Triblett.
The program likens the tools to CPR, but instead of helping someone having a heart attack, you’re assisting an individual that may be experiencing a mental health crisis. The eight-hour course teaches enrollees to identify risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies to use in crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to get help and resources.
“People’s experiences with mental health are valid,” explained Triblett, the Resource Coordinator for ReCAST MKE, the City of Milwaukee’s healing initiative aimed to support youth that have experienced trauma and their families, in which the Public Policy Institute is a partner. “Mental health affects everyone. There shouldn’t be a stigma around mental health or mental illness, because our brains are just like our bodies. If someone breaks their arm or if they have kidney disease, that’s something we can accept, that’s something we can talk about. We should respond the same way to mental health problems. Our brains should get the same kind of attention as our bodies do.”
Triblett said Mental Health First Aid training uses role playing and simulations to show how to assess a mental health crisis through a five-step process, training that made him feel more confident that he would know what to do in an emergency.
“Many times, professionals serving youth -- teachers, after school workers, pastors -- may not have an emergency plan laid out,” Triblett said. “We might not know what the first step is, or we might see signs and not recognize them. This training really helps us see the signs before something is out of control, and also helps us think through how we as an organization or as a youth worker or a parent would address mental health.”
Mental Health First Aid’s five strategies are:
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm
- Listen nonjudgmentally
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
Specifically, Triblett said the training places a special emphasis on helping a young person who is having a panic attack, as well as an individual who has thoughts of dying by suicide.
“We walked through those symptoms, what they look like, how you know they are happening, then we learned how to apply the five-step plan to both of those mental illnesses,” Triblett said.
Besides learning how to intervene during a potential mental health crisis, Triblett said it was invaluable to understand how to identify whether a young person is showing the signs or symptoms of experiencing a serious mental health issue, as opposed to exhibiting typical adolescent behavior, which can be challenging. Those trained in Mental Health First Aid won’t learn how to diagnose an individual with a mental health issue, but they will be able to learn how to have discussions with an individual who may need professional help or resources.
“What we do know is that around the age of 14 is when the first onset of mental health disorders show up, but they may not be truly full on or manifested on up until the age of 24,” Triblett said. “You have all that time to hope that the person is growing and developing. This training does a great job of introducing us to the methods of identifying when a young person is going through typical adolescent behavior but also how to have a conversation about those thoughts, those feelings, those behaviors for their own mental health well-being. That’s really powerful.”
Want to learn Youth Mental Health First Aid? Contact the Public Policy Institute’s Prevention Manager Elysse Chay at EChay@CommunityAdvocates.net to schedule a training.
Community Advocates is supported by ReCAST, a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services, under Grant No. 5H79SM063524.
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