Several counselors and administrators now have a better understanding of how to respond to an individual having a mental health crisis after becoming certified Mental Health First Aiders.
According to Shelby County Schools Counseling Supervisor Kim Bailey, about 15 people attended the first two half-day training workshops held October 15-16. Several more are scheduled to attend a second workshop scheduled for November 5-6 with the goal of eventually training about 60 people throughout the district.
Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course that teaches individuals how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The training gives participants the skills they need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or to someone experiencing a mental health crisis, such as contemplating suicide.
According to the Mental First Aid website, most people would know how to help someone was having a heart attack—either administer CPR or call 911. But too few people know how to respond to someone having a panic attack or to a friend or co-worker showing signs of substance abuse or alcoholism.
Mental Health First Aid takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance abuse problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder.
Patton Furman, Student Services Supervisor for the school district, was certified after attending the first training.
“Youth Mental Health First Aid taught me how to help in times of emotional crisis. I learned how to approach and talk to young people who are feeling suicidal, or who are having any type of mental health emergency,” Furman said. “The goal is to deescalate the situation until that person can get to a mental health professional.”
Furman plans to apply the knowledge she learned to both her professional and personal life.
“Professionally, the training will allow me to better support administrators in these situations,” she said. “In my personal life, I am a foster parent. Most children in foster care have experienced trauma – just being removed from their home and family is traumatic. I hope this intense training will help me to give those struggling children what they need.”
The Mental Health First Aid training is part of the Shelby County School District’s continued mental health awareness campaign – Shelby Cares, which seeks to create a culture of connecting, communicating, and caring for one another.