Mental Health First Aid

>>NARRATOR: At an adult education center in
Fairfax County, Virginia, a classroom of nursing students is learning what it feels like to
experience auditory hallucinations. The classroom buzzes with noise as pairs of
students try to talk, while a third student whispers distractingly in one of their ears. The exercise is part of a 12-hour course in
Mental Health First Aid, an import from Australia that is now making inroads in the U.S. Just as regular first aid trains citizens
to perform CPR and wrap tourniquets to care for the injured until medical professionals
can arrive, the idea of Mental Health First Aid is to equip ordinary citizens to identify
and help people going through mental health crises, and then direct them to a credentialed
mental health professional. >>POUNEH ZERAAT: The goal is to make people
in the community aware of one, the stigma that’s attached to people with mental health
or substance abuse issues, and two, is to see those signs and symptoms, be aware of
them, and implement that ALGEE action plan. >>NARRATOR: That’s course instruction Pouneh
Zeraat. The ALGEE she mentioned is not a type of seaweed. It’s an acronym for the steps that the course
teaches. Assess someone for risk of suicide or harm. Listen to them non-judgmentally, give reassurance
and information. Encourage them to get professional help, and
encourage self-care. The course include lectures, interactive activities,
and videos that show how to apply the steps in situations involving substance abuse, depression,
anxiety, schizophrenia and more. This morning, the lesson is on how to deal
with someone who is hallucinating. Fairfax County’s community services board
began offering the course in 2011 and has trained more than 600 people so far, according
to the CSB’s Jamie MacDonald. Some of the classes are open enrolment, while
others are for specific groups, like these nursing students. >>JAMIE MACDONALD: From the very beginning,
we had quite a bit of interest, and have trained a mix of members of the community, from all
walks of life. It runs the gamut from the nurses, this nursing
program that we’re teaching today, as well as folks from our Alcohol and Safety Action
Program, from court appointed special advocates, who work with families that are having domestic
kinds of issues. We’ve trained the campus police at Northern
Virginia Community College, over at the Annandale Campus. >>NARRATOR: MacDonald says that in follow-up
surveys, people report using their new knowledge in both work and their personal life. >>JAMIE MACDONALD: One person in particular
said that a relative had to be hospitalized because of a mental health crisis, and that
based on what they’d learned in the class they were far more confident about interacting
with the medical professionals at the hospital, and felt they were much more able to advocate
and support their relative, and that they just couldn’t say enough good things about
what they learned and how helpful it was. >>NARRATOR: The county plans to keep offering
the classes at least once a month, and hopes to soon offer a new version designed specifically
for adults who work with kids. >>POUNEH ZERAAT: If we can make it as important
as CPR and as–pretty much want to say, mandatory as CPR and first aid as with some of the careers
out there. If we could make it like that, that would
be wonderful. Because it’s so needed. I can’t emphasize how much it’s needed.

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published