Press Releases: Mental Health First Aid Helps Reduce Stigma in the Wake of Tucson Tragedy
Contact: Communications@thenationalcouncil.org or 202.684.3728
Washington, DC, Jan 6, 2012—Since the shootings in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011 that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others, mental health stakeholders and caring citizens nationwide have used the tragedy to help people better understand mental illness and respond to psychiatric emergencies. The public education effort has largely focused on Mental Health First Aid, a groundbreaking program to help people identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
In Arizona alone, over 1,000 people have become Mental Health First Aiders since last January. Nationwide, more than 40,000 people have been trained through a network of 1,800 certified instructors since the program was introduced in the U.S. in 2008.
The program has also helped reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, particularly in communities like Tucson which is still feeling the aftershocks from the tragedy.
“The training has changed a lot of people’s minds in the community about mental illness,” says Yuko Johnson-Bautista, RN, a nurse educator and Mental Health First Aid instructor at Pima Community College in Tucson. “People often start the class viewing people with mental illness in a negative light, but finish the training thinking of them as just regular people. They see the person as a person, not as a disease.”
Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based program, which uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis, select interventions and provide initial help. The training also addresses the risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and substance use disorders.
Evaluations from the training find that 98.5 percent of respondents would recommend the course to colleagues.
“People may know CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver, but the truth is they are more likely to come across someone in an emotional crisis than someone having a heart attack,” says Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. “Mental Health First Aid emphasizes that mental illnesses are real, common and treatable and that help is available.”
More about Mental Health First Aid: www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.
Mental Health First Aid is the initial help given to a person showing symptoms of mental illness or in a mental health crisis until appropriate professional, peer or family support can be engaged. Mental Health First Aid USA is disseminated by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health. To find a training program in your community or learn how you can certify as an instructor, visit www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.