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.