There now is first aid available for when someone has a mental illness, as well as educational classes for the general public.
“If you think of first aid that everybody has heard of ... it takes care of physical cuts, scrapes, bruises and things like that,” said John Moss, a certified mental health first aid instructor from the Grundy County Health Department.
“[The class] is mental health first aid, which is the same basic concept. But, as opposed to cuts, scrapes and bruises, its for [aiding] people you may come across in our daily life who may be struggling with some type of mental issue and how to respond to that ... and how to keep yourself safe as well as providing as much help as you can for that individual.”
The class is geared toward everyone.
“We have librarians, teachers ... whoever wants to take the class,” Moss said of the eight-hour course, which is cut down from the original 12 hours.
The class can be taught in one day, but often will be split into two or three days. The students will take a test, and if they pass, they will receive a card that indicates they are certified in mental health first aid.
Moss, a mental health and substance abuse therapist at the Grundy County Health Department, teaches the course.
The cost of the class is $15, and Moss noted that it is “basically the cost of the book, which you can keep and take home.”
The number of students in a class varies.
“We usually like to keep it no more than 30,” Moss said. “I’ve done classes with seven or eight people and I’ve done classes with 40 people. There’s a lot of interaction that takes place during the class. ... We’re not just lecturing for eight straight hours. We have them get up; they’re moving around and doing things to keep them interested.”
Many areas of mental health are discussed throughout the course.
“We talk about anxiety, depression, substance abuse, bipolar psychotic disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia. ... We get into suicidal behavior and nonsuicidal self-injury,” he said.
When a person certified in mental health first aid encounters someone with a mental issue, perhaps at a grocery store, he or she should assess the situation and make sure he or she is safe.
“Sometimes when making your assessment, it may be something that is way outside your realm,” he said. “Like for myself, because I’m a clinician, I’m experienced ... my comfort zone is probably a lot higher than someone else’s. ... If it is outside what you are comfortable with, call somebody who is. Keep an eye on the situation and make sure they stay as safe as you can make them and call someone.”
The person with the mental health first aid certification is there to help the person, though not necessarily alleviating the problem altogether.
“I can’t guarantee everything is going to be better,” Moss said, “but I can tell you that I’m going to sit here and listen to you. I will give you some information. ... I’m going to stay here with you and I’m going to do my best to help you. ...Maybe the thing they’re upset about is that their spouse died a week ago. Well, I can’t make that better, but I’ll sit here and I’ll hold your hand. ... I’ll try to get as much help as I can get you.”
Mental health first aid training is just part of the community outreach provided by the Grundy County Health Department.
“One of the big things we want to emphasize at the health department in Grundy County, is we do a lot of community education,” Moss said.