The course teaches first aid for injuries you cannot see

When people hear the term “first aid,” they often think of things like splints, tourniquets, and CPR. Knowing how to provide first aid is a valuable skill that could mean the difference between life and death.

But there is another type of first aid, that for wounds that are not visible to the naked eye.

Mental Health First Aid, a program established by the National Council of Mental Wellbeing, trains people on how to identify, understand and respond to the signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The training equips individuals with the skills they need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or addiction problem or is going through a crisis.


The course focuses on the action plan of mental health first aid, which consists of assessing the risk of suicide or self-harm, listening without judging, reassuring and informing about resources and obtaining help. vocational training, as well as to encourage self-help and other forms of support. strategies.

Training is provided by certified instructors at Huron Behavioral Health. HBH Prevention Specialist Erica Jones and Peer-Certified Specialist Beverly Bouverette led the students through the one-day course in late March, teaching them about the different types of mental health issues people may be experiencing. facing and sharing their own experiences with some of these challenges.

Bouverette said she learned that sharing her personal experiences with her own mental health issues helped shed light on the issue and demonstrated how crucial it can be to receive the proper care.

“It goes to show that just because I live with mental illness and have struggled doesn’t mean I can’t lead a productive life,” she said.

It is important for mental health first aiders to be prepared and confident when providing help to someone who may be going through a crisis, they said, adding that it is crucial that they listen and respond without bearing judgment and offer measured information on how to get help from trained professionals. .

The Mental Health First Aid Action Plan is dubbed ALGEE, an acronym that describes the steps first responders should take when they think someone may be experiencing a mental health problem.

A – Approach, assessment of risk of suicide or harm

L – Listen without judging

G – Reassure and inform

E – Encourage appropriate professional help

E – Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Source: National Behavioral Health Council


Mental health issues come with a lot of stigma, and this stigma often discourages people from seeking help. Choosing the right words, and especially avoiding the wrong ones, can go a long way in encouraging people in crisis to seek treatment.

“Language matters,” Jones said.

Jones pointed out how cultural attitudes can play an important role in whether a person receives appropriate care. Men, in particular, may be reluctant to ask for help, unwilling to appear vulnerable or admit what they see as weakness. Others may feel more comfortable speaking with a member of the clergy or another spiritual leader.

Relief workers are also made aware of other barriers, besides stigma, that can prevent people from getting the right care.

Factors like cost, logistics, or a simple lack of awareness often get in the way, and the primary goal of someone trained in mental health first aid is to connect people facing mental health issues with resources they need.

What mental health first aid providers are instructed never to do is attempt to diagnose or treat mental illness. This is a job left to trained professionals. First aid consists of recognizing the signs, approaching people and providing information. Early intervention and treatment play a vital role in the recovery process.

“We’re just trying to get them to safety,” Jones said.

The safety of rescuers and those in crisis is paramount, Jones added. Providers are instructed never to put themselves in danger and to call 911 if someone is in immediate danger. However, instructors pointed out that people with mental health issues account for only 4% of violent crimes.

Anyone interested in taking a mental health first aid course should contact Huron Behavioral Health at 989-269-9293. The instructors plan to hold monthly training sessions and there is a fee to take the course.

If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety or depression, has suicidal thoughts, or knows someone who needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Text “MHFA” to 741741 for help from the Crisis Text Line, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This organization helps people with mental health issues by connecting callers with trained emergency volunteers who will provide confidential support and referrals, if needed.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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