High-profile tragedies, such as the murder-suicide that occurred in Kansas City Saturday, often bring with them a great deal of conversation and speculation about what might have caused the perpetrator of the crime to do such a thing. So it has been in the days since Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before killing himself in an Arrowhead Stadium parking lot in front of Chiefs staff. Since the tragedy, thousands of people have called in to sports talk radio, expressed themselves on television, on Twitter, on blogs, and in response to newspaper articles.
The Metropolitan Council of Community Mental Health Centers is in no position to speculate about what lies behind this incomprehensible tragedy. But we are encouraged when we hear news organizations and citizens leading and participating in serious discussions about suicide prevention, domestic violence, behavioral health issues, substance abuse and the impact of traumatic events on those who witness them. These conversations may not lead to a greater understanding of what happened Saturday, but they can lead us to a greater understanding about how, collectively, we can take better care of our mental health. Educating ourselves about suicide prevention and domestic violence is one way to acquire the tools we need to address serious mental health issues with our friends, loved ones and neighbors.
Another tool that does this is Mental Health First Aid, a 12-hour course that teaches participants how to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness and how to respond to a mental health crisis. Just as Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is designed to help the general public respond to physical health crises, Mental Health First Aid teaches skills people can use to respond to people who, among other things, are threatening suicide, experiencing panic attacks, delusions or the effects of trauma.
Although Mental Health First Aid courses are currently available to the general public, the MetroCouncil recently received a grant* from the Health Forward Foundation to increase the number of MHFA instructors in the area. We will be announcing more details about this expansion during a Jan. 23 press event. Please look for more information about this event in the weeks to come.
In the meantime, anyone who has questions regarding Mental Health First Aid or would like to consider bringing the training to your facility, please contact Beth Yoder Stein at Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Call 913-328-4633, or send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Wyandot Inc. is administering the grant for MHFA.