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Mental health first aid just as important as the physical kind

12:20 PM, Nov 12, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- You've likely taken a CPR class, or even been briefed in first aid, but have you ever thought about how you help someone with a mental illness?

The situation can be awkward. Some people fear it is an attack on someone's character, not the true chemical imbalance that is happening inside their brain.

"The reality is we are far more likely to come in contact with someone who is challenged by a mental health disorder than we are by someone who is having a heart attack, yet we are, as a community very ingrained in first aid in how to resuscitate someone who might be having a heart attack," said Debbie Rodriguez, the president and CEO of Recovery Resources in Cleveland.

The organization offers a class called Mental Health First Aid. In the workshop, people have an opportunity to learn more about how to identify and how to help someone who is dealing with an illness as isolating as a mental health medical emergency.

The class originated in Australia and is offered in 14 different countries. It is encouraged for anyone who works with the public.

The training is 12 hours long. It provides a basic knowledge of the potential risk factors for mental illness, a five-step action plan, understanding the need for reducing the stigma and it teaches participants what resources are available to help someone in need.

Participants learn how to have conversations that are non-threatening and not intimidating.

According to Rodriguez, one in three people will be challenged by a mental health issue. She explains it doesn't have to be a psychotic episode, but it could range from depression, anxiety, or a chemical dependency.

Rodriguez says things like, "you don't look like yourself" and "I noticed you've seemed sad, not eating, it makes me worried," are good ways to start.

You may not get a positive response the first time. She encourages people to keep until they get results. She believes it's important to come from a place of wanting to help.

The folks at the Cleveland Public Library saw a need for some sort of training. They are employees who see large segments of the population on a daily basis, often times people in crisis have nowhere to go. The library is a warm, free place to spend time.

Employees told WKYC.com they are thankful for the training that they've put to use.

To find out more about the classes available click on the link below.

http://www.recres.org/TrainingandEducation/MentalHealthFirstAid.aspx

WKYC-TV

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