Last week, more than 180 people participated in the area’s second Mental Health First Aid ‘Day.’ Organized by the Metropolitan Council of Community Mental Health Centers (MetroCouncil), the event took place at five sites in the Kansas City region, including four courses offered at Penn Valley Community College.
Thanks to grants from the Health Care Foundation and the Jackson County Mental Health Fund, the region now has 180 more people who are familiar with the signs and symptoms of mental illness. And just as importantly, it has 180 more people who can help someone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis get the treatment they need.
Like CPR, Mental Health First Aid is a course designed for the general public. Those who complete it are on the front lines of mental health care and treatment. They aren’t clinicians. They don’t diagnose or conduct therapy.
But they are people who have learned enough skills to reach out to someone they’re worried about. Someone they might have shied from in the past. Someone who’s behavior they might have perceived as off-putting, strange or just difficult to deal with. These Mental Health First Aiders are people who don’t judge someone for the problems they’re experiencing. They are people who listen carefully and work to build a trusting relationship with someone in need so they can encourage that person to seek professional help. Not only that, they have the information required to make a referral.
And they do make a difference. At last week’s event, a woman told me her Mental Health First Aid training helped her respond to someone who was suicidal. She had taken the adult version of the course last year during the MetroCouncil’s first Mental Health First Aid Day, and had decided to attend a youth version offered last week. Without the course, she said, she would not have known what to do when a man she knew threatened to kill himself. Instead of following up on that threat, the man got help.
Stories like these are mounting. With support from Health Forward and the Jackson County Mental Health Fund, we’ve been able to train more than 1,200 Kansas City area residents since 2013. Hundreds of thousands more have been trained across the country.
And they’re talking about how they’ve applied their newfound skills. It’s not hard to find these stories. Just go here
and see for yourself. In the meantime, if you have taken Mental Health First Aid and would like to share your story, don’t hesitate to contact me at the email address below:
Mark Wiebe, Director of Public Affairs, Wyandot Inc.