This is a guest post from my dear writer friend Hope Johnson. She has an MA in Journalism from the University of Glamorgan in Wales, UK and works as a freelance writer and social media manager. In other words, writing is both a dedicated career path and an unending passion for her. You can see more of her work at Your Pet Loves Reiki and Entity Magazine.
Support for Mental Health Awareness
A personal experience with some information mixed in to help support Meanth Health First Aid Awareness.
Have you ever seen someone in a store on the verge of crying and not known what to do? Did you look away when a person became more agitated in what seemed to be a calm situation? Have you been nervous when a friend or family member appears to be going through a significant mental breakdown?
It’s hard to react when someone is mentally hurting or lashing out, even when you’ve known another person with a mental health illness. Fortunately, the Mental Health First Aid course helps to prepare you to offer assistance.
I became aware of mental health illnesses at the age of twelve. A family member was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and it completely changed my world. I could no longer go a day without telling my family that I loved them. When a friend was annoyed with me, I tried to make it better, so we didn’t leave on bad terms. I wasn’t sure if it would be the last time I saw any of them.
As I grew up, I felt pulled to mental health awareness occupations. On my high school career day, I realized I wanted to go to college for clinical counseling, but that didn’t happen. Then, in my second master’s, I wanted to specialize in pastoral care and counseling. That also didn’t happen. What did happen was a determination to utilize my passion for writing to fight the stigmas placed on mental health illnesses. What also happened was a friend became a mental health first aid instructor and needed to teach her first class.
Mental Health First Aid is a great way to create a community of mental health first responders. The Mental Health First Aid USA (MHFA) explains that “Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues.” This course helps you identify the signs of someone in need and equips you with ways to support them. It also teaches how to be cautious but helpful. You don’t want to endanger yourself.
The MHFA hopes to make this course as critical as a CPR class. They’ve also pushed a Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety initiative for police. This course helps to better prepare police officers when they encounter mentally ill people.
On MHFA’s website, there is a case study about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department taking part in the Mental Health First Aid Public Safety course. Assistant Chief Veronica “Vicki” Foster, now retired, said:
“Being such a large police force, it would have been impossible to train everyone in CIT [crisis intervention training] – it would be hard to do on a large scale since it’s so intensive. Mental Health First Aid was exactly what we needed, something relatively short and scalable to our entire force, but still effective in providing our officers with the know-how to handle sensitive situations.”
This is an excellent example of a course that can be beneficial and easy to teach for whole departments, and it can help save lives out in the field.
My friend, and instructor, explained that because of her training, she was more confident in approaching people to say, with honest sincerity, “are you okay because I’m here if you want to talk?” Sometimes, we keep our heads down because we don’t know what to say or how to help. This course provides that knowledge so you are more equipped to handle a mental health crisis situation.
I was a youth leader when I took the Mental Health First Aid course in 2015. It made me aware that my students may be going through anxiety and/or depression. (Usually, when there is one, the other is lurking around.) It taught me how to talk to them, help them understand what may be happening and who they can talk to for further support. It taught me to be a first responder.
My personal hope is to help people understand mental health illnesses better. I want to help people notice the subtleties of someone with a mental health illness and then be able to respond. Even if it’s to hand them a paper with the number of a helpline or to give eye contact to acknowledge they are there and they are seen.
Identify. Understand. Respond.
If you would like to find a course, you can go here. Classes can be specific for adults or youth.
You can also click on an instructor’s name and reach out to them if you would like to request a closed session with your own assembled group.
If you or someone you meet is thinking of suicide, please make use of this National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.