Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mental Health First Aid

Guest Post by Kristin DiMiceli, LMSW

What would you do if you are walking down the street and see someone fall & potentially break a bone? If you are a considerate human being, you might run over to help them and/or call someone for help. Now think about a situation where you are walking & see someone in emotional distress: leaning over, breathing heavily, crying, & looking a bit disoriented. There are a variety of ways one might respond, but think about your initial feelings when imagining this scenario. One might turn the other way, try to solve the problem, or start to look panic stricken themselves. It doesn’t feel as clear cut as when you are addressing a medical problem, right?

To help solve this problem, the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH) started a movement to train people in Mental Health First Aid. This training was first created in Australia in 2001 by a nurse, Betty Kitchener, & a mental health literacy professor, Tony Jorm. It has been adapted in 23 other countries & was started in the United States in 2008. The NCBH has trained over 500,000 people, & is working towards the goal of reaching 1 million people with the help of Congress putting $15 million towards their cause. Their training sessions are conducted all over the United States to address helping adults & youth who may be experiencing emotional distress.

As a Licensed Social Worker working in the mental health field, I feel that this is a very important movement that will not only help people find ways to help those in need mentally, but to also reduce the stigma that is so heavily ingrained in our society regarding mental health. Whether we mean to or not, we tend to shy away from helping those who are in need due to mental health problems. First Aiders are trained to address individuals who may be suicidal, experiencing a panic attack, or using drugs.

With this training, one can at least try to help those in need by pointing them in the right direction using the Mental Health First Aid acronym, ALGEE. It stands for:

  1. Assess
  2. Listen non-judgmentally
  3. Give reassurance and information
  4. Encourage appropriate professional help
  5. Encourage self-help and other support strategies.     

There is no quick fix in the moment, but at least the individual is being addressed & recognized, as opposed to being ignored. You never know if you might be the catalyst for a more positive path in their life. This Mental Health First Aid training is excellent for a variety of professionals, from police officers to teachers, as well as lay people. You don’t have to be a medical professional to give the Heimlich Maneuver & you don’t have to be a mental health clinician to give Mental Health First Aid.   

For more information and to sign up for training sessions, check out

Also, don’t be afraid to call 911 if you feel someone may need to be further evaluated.  Emergency rooms can evaluate individuals if they appear to need to be admitted.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

1 comment:

  1. The procedure of First Aid Training in Health is generally performed by the layperson with many people trained in providing basic levels of first aid and others willing to do so from acquired knowledge.