If we see someone chocking or we witness a person falling and being injured, most of us are fairly quick to respond. If we can’t give assistance directly we will call for help or dial 911. But when we see a person crying or looking frightened or even talking to themselves, most people will pass by with a sideways glance. Sometimes it is out of a fear for one’s own safety, but other times it is simply because many are uncomfortable with raw emotion.
The reality is that we are more likely to come across someone who is having a mental health crisis than a physical one and yet people are trained in CPR every day. There is now a course available to give people the tools to deal with someone having a mental health crisis. Similar to CPR it provides training to manage the moment until professionals arrive to take over.
The course teaches how to identify if someone is actively suicidal and if they have the ability to carry out a suicide plan. It also teaches about symptoms of various mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. The course strives to provide an understanding of what the person, who is experiencing the symptoms, may be feeling and teaches effective ways to communicate with someone in a crisis. The class members participate in exercises to improve empathy. One exercise asks a participant to attempt to have a conversation while someone whispers in their ear things such as, “Don’t trust him,” or “You’re a failure.” This can really help a person to understand what it may feel like for someone who is having auditory hallucinations.
When I was doing my internship in a psychiatric hospital I was required to learn CPR and First Aid. My job did not entail any medical intervention, but I needed to learn these skills nonetheless. Many jobs require their employees to have a basic understanding of how to handle a medical crisis but this course trains people to handle a mental health crisis. Schools, hospitals and even large corporations would be well served to have members of their staff gain this type of knowledge in addition to other life saving skills.
For more information about Mental Health First Aid you can visit this website