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Why Everyone Should Learn Mental Health First Aid

A recent article from CNN cites the findings from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) that show that one out of five Americans adults suffers from a mental health problem, but most don’t seek help for it.

Mental Health First Aid – an eight-hour workshop – hopes to allow non-mental health professionals to acquire the basic skills to recognize the signs that someone might be having a mental health problem. The workshop is meant for teachers, HR personnel, and others, and aims to equip them to ask the relevant questions and to respond in helpful ways that will encourage the person suffering from a mental health problem to speak to them, to seek professional help, and to feel empowered to make good decisions towards self-care.

I recently was informed by a young student of a TV series she felt was relevant, following one of the recent tragic school shootings. I subsequently watched the HBO TV series “Quicksand”, which depicts the relationship between two young high school kids and the swift process by which a highly functioning girl is engulfed by the riveting attention from a rich, popular “bad boy” boyfriend, not recognizing his deterioration into uncontrolled drug abuse and mental illness. While there is a teacher in the series who is depicted as a sensitive and caring adult, the series also conveys the failure of average good parents to notice their daughter’s developing problem and the failure of the system at large, including school figures and peers, to recognize the signs and the severity of mental health problems. The need to educate non-professionals so they have greater awareness and better knowledge of how to recognize that someone has changed, or is showing worrisome signs, is an important aspect of caring for each other and a safeguard against such tragedies as the mass shootings we have witnessed in recent years.

                            Irit Felsen

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