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Mental Health First Aid Training has positive, life-saving impact

This month Monarch held a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) class in Stanly County for the public to learn how to respond to someone who might be experiencing a mental health crisis.

mh first aidThe class began by having each person take a piece of paper with a mental health or physical health disability label on it. The disabilities ranged from schizophrenia to blindness, and the group was asked to arrange them in the order they thought was most severe to least.

What they learned, after much debate, was the most severe issues all fell on the mental health side, and that severe depression is comparable to the disability from quadriplegia. The class was surprised to learn that although we cannot always see mental disabilities, they can cause just as much pain as physical disabilities.

One in 4 adults and 1 in 5 youth experience mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), and the MHFA training course notes that 19.1 percent of adults experience anxiety disorders in any given year. This means there might be someone in our everyday lives who is, or has, experienced a mental health crisis.

The goal of the eight-hour MHFA course is to help participants identify signs of substance use disorders and mental illness such as depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, eating disorders and self-injury. Participants also learned how to talk to and connect those experiencing crises with professionals and resources.

Another participant, who wished to remain anonymous, shared a situation with a family member who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She said one day this person started talking about giving up and not wanting to wake up.

“Using my MHFA training, I felt much more comfortable with how to proceed.  Before taking the training, I would have been afraid of asking the question ‘do you have a plan to kill yourself.’ With MHFA training, I knew it was ok to ask this question, and that it was the right thing to do,” she said.

The course teaches that asking those types of questions allows family and friends to gauge how serious the person is about committing suicide and helping to assess their their mental state.

Brandy Vanhoy, an administrative assistant at Monarch, attended the training and said it was an enlightening experience.

“Mental health issues are something that can affect anyone around us--grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters and best friends. I think it was good to learn some of the warning signs and some ways that we can help them. Our patience, understanding and trust can help them to get the help they need so they can start to recover,” she said.

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