Gogebic Community Mental Health in Wakefield continues to participate in the national initiative to increase mental health literacy by once again hosting one of the most promising evidence-based public education programs in the United States today, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training.
Most people would know how to help someone having a heart attack, by starting CPR if certified, or by calling 911. However, too few people would know how to respond if they saw someone having a panic attack or were concerned that a friend or loved one might be showing signs of substance abuse, or suicidal behavior.
MHFA takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address someone who is developing or experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. The goal is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives. Mental Health First Aiders learn how to assess risk, respectfully listen to and support the individual in crisis, and identify appropriate professional help and other supports. Participants are also introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health or substance use problems, engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families, and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.
MHFA is an international program proven to be effective. Peer-reviewed studies published in Australia, where the program originated, show that individuals trained in the program increase their knowledge of signs, symptoms, and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions; can identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with a mental illness or addiction; increase their confidence in and likelihood to help an individual in distress; and show increased mental wellness themselves and are better able to monitor and deal more effectively with their own levels of stress and frustration.
Before you can know how to help, you need to know when to help. This is called mental health literacy, or a basic understanding of what different mental illnesses and addictions are, how they can affect a person’s daily life, and what helps individuals experiencing these challenges get well. MHFA teaches about recovery and resiliency, the belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well.
Studies also show that MHFA reduces the social distance created by negative attitudes and perceptions of individuals with mental illness. When it comes to mental health issues, the issue of “stigma” is a barrier and a challenge for many. Stigma is a feeling of shame or disgrace that also involves a great deal of fear; the fear of not understanding a problem, of doing or saying the “wrong” thing, and of not knowing what to do when someone needs help. MHFA is helping to change that by demystifying mental illness, by helping people understand that mental illnesses are real, common, and treatable, and by showing people how to help others.
More than 1 million people across the Unites States have been trained in MHFA; Michigan is one of the top five states in the Unites States with the most people trained in MHFA, with having close to 30,000 people trained. There are over 12,000 MHFA instructors and the instructor for the Gogebic CMH classes was honored by the President and CEO of The National Council for
Behavioral Health (Washington, D.C.) as being one of the top 100 instructors in the United States!
Both the adult and youth classes are being offered at CMH. The adult class, scheduled for August 15th, is appropriate for anyone 18 years and older who want to learn how to help a person who may be experiencing a mental health related crisis or problem. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, psychosis, and addictions. The youth class, scheduled for August 16th, is designed for adults who regularly interact with adolescents, but may also be appropriate for older adolescents (16 and older) so as to encourage youth peer to peer interaction. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.
The 8-hour certification training classes are from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and are held at the CMH building in Wakefield; the classes are free and lunch is included. Registrations are limited. For more information or to register for either or both classes, contact Missy Lane at CMH at 229-6105. For more information regarding MHFA, visit their web site at www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org. Be the one to make a difference.

Mental Health Matters