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Mental Health First Aid can ‘change the world’

Almost everyone has completed some level of first-aid classes in their life, and, with the help of LifeSpring Health Systems, Mental Health First Aid will become as common as the original first-aid certification.
Mental Health First Aid is the help offered to a young person experiencing a mental-health challenge, mental disorder or a mental-health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate help is received or until the crisis resolves.
Ellen Kelley, a clinical trainer for LifeSpring, led a discussion June 19 at the Harrison County Extension Office in Corydon that focused on youth mental health first aid.
Kelley said there’s a big difference today compared to pre-1960s life in this country, thanks, in large part, to first aid. She said snake bites, broken bones and high fevers would sometimes be fatal because of a lack of knowledge and the inability to get professional help within a day or two.
‘Things we don’t even hardly blink an eye at today,’ she said.
It was determined, Kelley said, that people from all walks of life needed to be trained in first aid, basically to treat a patient until they could get to a hospital or a doctor.
‘This made a tremendous difference in our country,’ she said.
That’s the kind of difference Kelley said she wants people to be a part of when it comes to mental health.
She said the longer a person with mental-health issues waits to seek help, the less likely they will be to recover and be fully functional in society.
Kelley said a curriculum was established in 2000 for Mental Health First Aid, and classes are offered through LifeSpring to become certified.
‘It’s cutting edge … I’m a really fun trainer, so you’ll enjoy those eight hours,’ Kelley said.
She said the goal of the nationwide program, implemented by the Obama administration in 2008, is to train one million people to be certified in Mental Health First Aid.
‘That’s how Mental Health First Aid can change our country; you’re at the beginning,’ she said to the 20 or so attendees, mainly from the health and youth services fields. ‘We’re talking about changing the world.’
Kelley not only encouraged those in attendance to become certified, but also to become a trainer.
‘If you feel frustrated when there’s a shooting or someone is in jail that shouldn’t be because of a mental-health issue, this is how you can do something,’ she said.
Kelley said a difference really can be made and it’s possible, through this avenue, to slow down the mass shootings.
Indiana Youth Institute Southeast Outreach manager Michelle Sanchez, who introduced Kelley, said the need for mental-health discussion and action is greatly needed as evident by a church shooting in Charleston, S.C., that left nine people dead after a gunman opened fire just two days before the Youth Worker Caf’.
‘We certainly have the families of the victims in South Carolina in our hearts and prayers,’ Sanchez said.
Kelley said many people don’t know help is available or they are ashamed and hide symptoms.
Mental-health issues should be treated the same way as a broken arm, liver problem or any physical ailment, she said.
‘We need to spread the word that this is nothing to be ashamed of,’ she added.
Kelley said there’s an adult Mental Health First Aid course, as well as an adolescent class. She recommended taking both of the eight-hour courses.
The youth class explains the difference between normal, adolescent behavior and behavior that could be the beginning of a mental-health illness.
Mental-health problems, which are common (one in five people experience mental-health problems), often develop during adolescence, Kelley said, and misunderstanding and discrimination are often associated with mental-health problems.
A few symptoms, compared to typical adolescent behavior, were discussed:
‘Withdrawing from family to spend more time with friends (typical behavior); withdrawing from friends, family and social activity (potential warning sign).
‘Wanting more privacy (typical adolescent behavior); becoming secretive and the need for privacy seems to be hiding something (potential warning sign).
‘Moving from childhood likes to teen pursuits (typical); losing interest in favorite activities and not replacing with other pursuits (warning sign).
‘Don’t stress about your child; this is how you can tell if you need to seek help,’ she said of the course, which costs $35.
After taking the course, a person is certified for three years and can become recertified through online courses.
Two youth Mental Health First Aid classes will take place at the conference room (first door on the left) of the Harrison County Government Center in Corydon on Friday, July 17, and at the LifeSpring Health Systems office in Jeffersonville on Thursday, July 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The $35 fee includes lunch and cost of materials.
Kelley said she would provide on-site training to any business.
‘I’d be more than happy to do that to get the word out,’ she said.
For more information or to register for a class, contact Kelley by email at [email protected]
The training will give people confidence when asking someone about a possible mental health crisis.
‘It’s a secret in our community … we don’t talk about it. We need to know that there is recovery,’ Kelley said.
LifeSpring is the community mental health center for Harrison, Washington, Scott, Jefferson and Floyd counties in Southern Indiana. Kelley said each county in the state, by law, has to have a community mental health center.