March 3, 2011

First Aid For Your Mind?

By: Rhonda Craig, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- There's first aid training and CPR training, but what about first response treatment for your mental health? Unlike other well-known health training courses, the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program teaches the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders and when and how people should intervene.

The MHFA training course was developed in Australia in 2001, and was adapted in the United States seven years later. Currently there are just over 1,000 instructors across the U.S and so far, more than 10,000 people have gone through the course. The first aid is beneficial to anyone with a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The aid is given until appropriate treatment or professional help can be offered. During a 12-hour course, participants learn how to recognize and tackle a series of mental health illnesses using a five-step action plan.
"The aim of the course is to demystify the things out there. It's easy for people to say and think they're crazy. Depression is a disease. There's no wishing it away, just as a disease in the liver or kidney, depression is a disease of the brain." Marie Dudek, Mental Health First Aid instructor, told Ivanhoe.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Some mental health programs focus on prevention, early intervention or treatment. MHFA fits in somewhere in the middle.

"Prevention tells you these things to look for, but it doesn't tell you what to do. So if you know what to look for but you don't know what to do you're still afraid. There's a difference between help and support. It's easy to feel sorry for someone because that doesn't require anything further from you, but that's not empowering them to help them lead productive lives, " Dudek said.

A series of published studies have found that people trained in MHFA have greater confidence in advising and providing help to people in need of treatment.

MHFA USA is managed by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

SOURCE: Mental Health First Aid Training Course, March 1, 2011