Some of you recognize ALGEE, and some of you will get to know ALGEE throughout the next few years. ALGEE is a very special little Koala. He is the mascot of the Mental Health First Aid program and is a reminder of the 5-step action plan that you are taught in Mental Health First Aid courses. Thanks to all of you who have certified and have become mental health “first-aiders.” You rock and have saved many lives with your thoughtful interactions, questions, and suggestion to help people who experience mental health challenges.
For those of you who are not familiar with Mental Health First Aid: What is it?
Mental Health First Aid is a certification program on the same level as CPR and First Aid & Safety. It is evidence-based which means that it is grounded in research and practices proven to work. It is for the person who has not had upper level psychology education and who does not work in the psychological services on a regular basis (they already know all of this stuff). So…, basically, it is for the rest of us! The program helps us understand how common mental health issues are, how to recognize when someone might be dealing with a mental health challenge or mental health crisis, how to approach someone we might be concerned about, and how to help them get the help which could change their lives.
Anyone who understands both physical and mental health understands that the earlier we can get a person help, the more likely the outcomes will be positive; however the longer it takes to get help, the more detrimental a health condition can become. Yes, that includes both physical and mental health. In Mental Health First Aid courses, we talk about how to approach a person we suspect may be having difficulty and how to start a conversation to find out more. Often, we find that the person is not having issues or may have a difficult situation that they can handle quickly and be well. How would we know if we didn’t ask, though?
In my experience, if I ask 15 people about what I observe, I generally find that 2 people could really use some help. Most of the time, the help they need is minimal. They may need to talk about something to get it out or to try to understand something they are struggling with better. They may need to learn a way to relax in certain circumstances. Students may need to talk with an academic advisor on advice about a course. Veterans may need an outlet for their experiences that they feel they can’t talk with because others have not “been there.” There are so m any thing and so many people who have mental health issues (1 in every 5 people or more), and they may need to know that they are not alone and someone has noticed and wants to be there for them.
On the other hand, every once in a while, I ask someone about what they are experiencing, and I find that they could use the help of a professional in the medical or mental health fields, or a social worker, or even police intervention, if necessary. If they probably could benefit from treatment, but don’t realize it, as a First-Aider, I can guide them toward choosing to get help by offering them information and letting them know they are not alone in whatever they are struggling with. There are lots of kinds of professional help.
My favorite role is encouraging people to use self-help skills and learning all they can about their disorders. It helps to reduce fear and anxiety and gives a person a way to help themselves to some degree without constantly needing medical care. If you have read this blog for a while, then you know that I am a huge fan of deep breathing exercises. WHY? Because it works for me. When we talk about self-help skills, though, we have to realize that there are many and they don’t all work to the same degree in everyone. I do deep breathing and gardening to reduce anxiety. My neighbor likes to work and stay as busy as possible. A friend of mine loves using acupuncture to relieve stress and reduce depression. A great question a Mental Health First-Aider can ask is: What makes you happy? What do you like to do that helps you relax/cope/learn/feel free/or whatever the person needs?
Mental Health First Aid can be as easy as this: Hi Tom, I noticed (XYZ)… I was wondering if we could talk about it in private. I want to help. What happens next depends on what you learn.
Use the ALGEE action plan. If you do not know it, then please find a Mental Health First Aid course, take it, and get certified! Now that we can teach Mental Health First Aid completely online, in a blended manner (half online and half in class), or in our wonderful traditional in-person course, there is no excuse to not get certified. WE have certified more than 2.4 million people in the USA, and you could be next! Come join the movement!
Thank you for being out there and saving lives, ya’ll!
Do you want to take Mental Health First Aid or Youth Mental Health First Aid online? We can get you into a class! email us at MHFA@educationwellness.org to get details.
My grandson was upset that he couldn’t go shopping for a birthday present for my recent birthday. He told his mom that it wasn’t fair to me that I wouldn’t get a birthday party and a nice gift from him, so she let him give me a call to make sure it was okay. He was so sad that he was crying… poor baby. Our conversation and the ending result turned out to be better than any birthday ever.
I reminded him that the thing that made me most happy was that he thought of me. Since he called me, I knew he was thinking about me, and that made me happier than any gift. I also reminded him of the wonderful birthday surprise that he and his classmates (and others) did for his friend from school for his birthday.
You can imagine how hard it would be to become 4, 5, 6, or 7 and not be able to have a celebration with your friends, so the boy’s mom sent out a birthday invitation to surprise him with a parade! This family lives in another town, but my daughter thought it was important to show the little guy that he was still being thought of and not forgotten, even though COVID-19 has everyone sheltering in place.
My grandson and his mom were early, so they got to be at the beginning of the line of about 50 carloads of families which showed up to wish the little boy a Happy Birthday. Our boys were able to have a good conversation (from a distance) before the parade started, and a gift was left on the sidewalk. There were hand-made signs and music and gifts and family, friends, and classmates in each car. My grandson was so excited. “What is most important,” he said, “Is Kindness!”
Reminding him of this made him feel better and gave him an idea. Later in the day, as I was leaving to go to the VA hospital, a little voice yells out to me, “Hey Grandma!” (Hearing that voice always melts my heart). He had brought me some birthday presents that he had painted. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than something my little fella made from his heart especially for me… except for the joy he had in giving me something so special.
COVID-19 might slow us down. but it can’t stop kindness and love. Happy Birthday!
It is Mental Health Awareness month. Do you know someone who may need some help? The Novel Corona Virus – 19 (COVID-19) has put us in a position where people we know may be suffering mentally or emotionally. For many, social distancing means they will have to stay home, alone, for a very long time. Isolation is one the main causes of depression in many people, and social distancing may seem like isolation to some.
What can we do to help? First: Reach out to people who may be home alone for a long time. Check on them, and let them know that they can be in contact with others in many ways. There are many ways to communicate while social distancing: Phone, computer, signs… and my son would even say… smoke signals! We may not be able to be together in person, but we can still be together in other ways.
If you think that someone is suffering from depression, severe anxiety, or any other mental health issues, encourage that person to get some help. If you are the one who is having issues, make sure you take care of yourself, as well. Self-care is important… and can be done in many creative ways. Look out for others, but take care of yourself as well.
As usual, We will try to send a message or two, every week, during the month of May! We will get through this together.
Things are progressing at the National Council for Behavioral Health, and Mental Health First Aid will be announcing some exciting new programs, later in 2020. This is exciting stuff!
The first exciting thing is that the testing of the new Teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA), a teen peer support program designed to give students some information and skills to help their friends who may be suffering from mental health issues, is in its completion stages, and I think they will be rolling out the new program within a year or so. This is exciting, because teens are more likely to talk with their friends than an adult, so we can identify and get these kids help much earlier than before. Early intervention is key to successful outcomes, so this is great news!
We also have gotten word that there will probably be a choice of an alternative course format for Mental Health First Aid in the future! The new format will require that participants do several hours of coursework on their own before coming to class. Then, at class, we support the information with addition information and exercises to support ALGEE. This will enable us to cut down the time for class to about half a day, instead of the whole day class. Since it will take some time to train instructors, but word is that this is a result of so many people asking for a shorter class.
Finally, a new early childhood version of Youth Mental Health First Aid is rumored to be on its way out of testing, very soon. You asked for YMHFA for younger kids than adolescents for those of you who need information for younger children. The National Council is always listening, and they value your comments and suggestions in course evaluations! Thanks to you, we will be able to help more and more people get the help they need and save even more lives.