When tragic events of mass violence occur, the nation is often left reeling and wondering why. Why would a gunman open fire on a packed movie theater? What would cause a young man to enter an elementary school and commence a shooting rampage? While there are undoubtedly many factors that lead to these deadly events, there is virtually always one common denominator involved: mental illness.
Although one in four adults experiences a mental disorder today, these disorders are still largely misunderstood and stigmatized in our society. In 2001, Betty Kitchener, a nurse specializing in health education, and Anthony Jorm, a professor of emotional health literacy, decided it was time to speak up about this topic in Australia. Together they formed Mental Health First Aid Australia, which was adapted by the United States in 2008.
Mental Health First Aid is an 8 hour course that helps participants learn how to assist someone who is developing a mental or emotional health problem or experiencing a mental or emotional health crisis.
To begin, participants in the course learn about a variety of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. Then, they are taught risk factors and warning signs for these concerns. They are also taught strategies for helping individuals who are experiencing events ranging from panic attacks to acute psychosis. Role plays and activities help participants in the course apply what they've learned in real-life scenarios.
So, who should get trained in this type of First Aid? The short answer is everybody that makes up a community. Certainly there are specific professions that regularly interact with a variety of people that would benefit greatly from the training--teachers, primary care workers, police officers, and Human Resources directors, to name a few. However, there is not a single profession out there that wouldn't benefit from its employees having a greater awareness of mental illness and substance abuse disorders.
"When a loved one has heart disease or cancer, families rally around — they cook, clean, drive their loved ones to doctor’s appointments, give pep talks, and much more. But when someone is struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental conditions, [people] are not sure what to do..."
It is this mentality that is the driving force behind this necessary training. To help avoid future mental illness related tragedies and aid in the creation of a safer, more accepting society, find a Mental Health First Aid course near you.
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