Smile Politely

Mental Health First Aid comes to Champaign

More than one in five adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness, but research shows that a whopping two thirds of that number go without treatment.

Lack of access to services can account for some of that figure, but many people avoid seeking treatment because of the stigma associated with mental illness. No one wants to be perceived as “crazy,” so they instead suffer in silence.

In 2011, a team from Melbourne, Australia created Mental Health First Aid, or MHFA, to catalyze private and professional outreach. This training program is now adopted by 23 different countries worldwide, including the United States, which instituted The Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013 to allocate $20 million in grants to fund MHFA training programs all around the country.

It is now available right here in Champaign.

On January 15th and 16th, certified staff from Community Elements will be teaching a Mental Health First Aid course at their 1801 Fox Drive location. The training will take about 8 hours to complete and is appropriate for anyone in the community who would like to learn more about mental illness and addiction. Instructors recommend this course for anyone who interacts with a lot of people:  employers, emergency personnel, educators, and faith leaders in particular are encouraged to join the class and note that trained mental health clinicians will probably not get much out of the class.

Mental Health First Aid teaches participants a five-step action plan called ALGEE to support someone developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or to help them in an emotional crisis:

Assess for risk of suicide or harm. While no 8 hour program is going to make you an expert on psychology, Mental Health First Aid will teach you about addiction and common mental illnesses and how to assess whether or not a person is at risk for suicide.

Listen nonjudgementally. Easier said than done, nonjudgemental listening is a skill that requires practice and patience and is critical in helping an individual feel respected and understood. Mental Health First Aid teaches verbal and nonverbal techniques for engaging in meaningful and appropriate conversation with someone experiencing mental illness.

Give assurance and information. It’s important that you do not blame an individual with mental illness for their symptoms. Recognize that mental illness and addiction are real, treatable illnesses from which people can and do recover. Mental Health First Aid provides resources and information that you can offer to someone to provide emotional support and practical help.

Encourage appropriate professional help. There are a lot of different kinds of “help” out there, and it’s difficult to determine what a person actually needs unless you’re already well acquainted with the world of mental health.  Mental Health First Aid teaches you about the types of professional help that are available both locally and nationally so that you can connect the individual to the resources they need.

Encourage self-help and other support strategies. In addition to seeking professional help, it is vital that a person with mental illness advocates for him or herself. Meditation, exercise, and engaging with social networks can all contribute to recovery from mental illness. Mental Health First Aid provides a more in-depth look into some of these strategies.

Registration for this event is open until tomorrow, January 9th at 4 p.m.

Please submit your registration form and $30.00 to 801 N. Walnut St. in Champaign if you’d like to attend.

Registration is limited to the first 25 participants to sign up. You can do so by visiting the Events page on the Community Elements website or by calling 373-2430 and asking for extension 2214.

For more information about the course, you can visit here or here.

Update: Due to low enrollment, this event will be rescheduled to a later date. Please still call to express your interest in the program so you can be included in the TBD date!

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