“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”
It is common to sign up for a first aid course. Maybe it’s a work requirement or perhaps you want to be able to respond to a medical emergency. First aid kits are stocked and posters are hung with information.
These skills and knowledge prepare individuals to respond to a medical emergency and hopefully reduce the severity. But what about ailments of the mind?
Community Elements is training 36 MTD Staff in Mental Health First Aid.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) aims to “teach members of the public how to respond in a mental health emergency and offer support to someone who appears to be in emotional distress.” (Mental Health First Aid USA)
MTD’s vehicles see, on average, nearly 60,000 passengers on a weekday. Illinois Terminal looks after hundreds of visitors in the summer and when the University is in session those numbers jump to the thousands. The opportunities to respond and support individuals experiencing a physical or mental crisis are ubiquitous.
Thanks to certified trainers from Community Elements, 36 MTD staff will complete the eight hour MHFA training. Operations Staff include our Supervisors, members of Safety and Training, as well as our Planners and Operations Director and Assistant Operations Director. Illinois Terminal’s Manager is enrolled along with Illinois Terminal’s Security and Customer Service team.
I took the course last Friday, July 10. As the Customer Service Manager, I found the training valuable in developing our organized responses as well as guiding future training.
When does a mental obstacle transcend into disorder? We all have bad and good days and experience emotions like sadness and worry. But when do behaviors warrant a higher level of concern? Why and when is MHFA training helpful?
A mental disorder or mental illness is a “diagnosable illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behavior and disrupts the person’s ability to work or carry out other daily activities and engage in satisfying personal relationships.” (Mental Health First Aid USA)
Mental health disorders, like medical disorders, are diagnosable. Symptoms for the disorder last for more than two weeks and in the case of trauma, over four weeks. The trainers stressed these basics throughout the course. There are common variants of anxiety and depression that are a part of being human. But then there is anxiety and depression that disrupts all aspects of a person’s life. So how to respond?
A brainstorm of an A to Z list of depression symptoms.
The course is structured around the acronym, ALGEE, which provides a guide to responding to an individual with a mental health need. The trainers would educate the class on a disorder then we’d return to the ALGEE acronym to practice a response.
A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm
L: Listen nonjudgmentally
G: Give reassurance and information
E: Encourage appropriate professional help
E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies
The repeating message was you, first responder, are not responsible for filling the role of mental health professional. An MHFA administer provides assistance to someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
Mental Health Statistics and Local Resources
The stigma surrounding mental health as well as the lack of education prevents, experts believe, individuals from seeking the help they need. In the United States, only 41% of people with a mental illness use mental health services in any given year.
It is estimated that one in five adults has a mental disorder in any given year in the United States. Anxiety disorders afflict the most adults with an estimated 19.1% of the general American population. Major depressive disorder comes in second with 6.8% of U.S. adults. Substance use is third with 8%, bipolar disorders is next with 2.8%, and eating disorders follow closely behind with 2.1%.
Additionally, it is common for mental disorders to occur in combination. Of the 26.2% of U.S. adults with any mental disorder in a one-year period, just 14.4% have one disorder. This leaves 5.8% who suffer from two disorders and 6.3% who have three or more.
Community Elements has two facilities that offer a range of services and treatments. One facility is located at 1801 Fox Drive and the second is in downtown Champaign at 801 North Walnut.
There is a Champaign chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) that organizes regular support groups and get-togethers.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) has an Urbana Champaign Chapter of peer-led mental health support groups.
MTD staff thank Community Elements for offering this training. After Friday’s session, several staff said they would feel much more comfortable approaching an individual experiencing a crisis. Others said they appreciated all they learned about mental health in general and felt empowered to assist their family, friends, and coworkers.
Is your organization trained in Mental Health First Aid? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.