Ask Dr. Goldbloom: Mental Health First Aid

When we think of first-aid, we usually
think of helping somebody who’s had a heart attack, or dealing with injuries or burns, but
what should you do if you encounter somebody who’s
experiencing a mental health problem? Somebody who’s having a panic attack or feeling aggressive, perhaps because of
alcohol or drugs, or someone who is suicidal?
Mental Health First Aid, very much like physical first aid,
involves helping somebody who’s developing a problem or perhaps already experiencing a mental
health crisis. It involves providing help and support until appropriate treatment can be found
or until the crisis resolves. Here are five things that you
can do to help someone who’s experiencing mental
distress. Approach the person in a caring and
non-judgmental manner to discuss your concerns. The person
you’re trying to help might not trust you, or might be afraid of
being perceived as “different” and therefore may not be open
with you. Listen non-judgmentally, let the person know you’re concerned
about them and are willing to help. Give support and information, if possible offer the person choices of how you can
help them. Try asking if they felt this way before and if so, what they’ve done in the past if it’s been helpful. Don’t try to diagnose. If they don’t want
to talk about their experiences don’t try to make them. Rather, let them know that you’ll be
available if they would like to talk in the future. Encourage them to seek professional help. Encourage other supports, such a
self-help strategies and seek professional assistance. Most
Canadians with mental health problems and illnesses if they do seek help, get it from their
family doctor. The philosophy behind Mental Health
First Aid is that a mental health crisis can be
avoided or better handled through early intervention. If you’d like
to learn how you can help someone who may be experiencing a mental health
problem or crisis, take the course in mental heath first aid. To find out more, visit
www.mentalhealthcommission.ca. I’m Dr. David Goldbloom.

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