Press & Public: Breaking News
President Obama’s gun control proposals call for Mental Health First Aid training for teachers and staff
As part of his recommendations to protect our communities from gun violence, President Obama today rightly called for Mental Health First Aid training to help teachers and staff recognize the signs of mental health disorders in young people and find them appropriate care.
Statement by Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO, National Council
Now Is the Time: The President’s Plan to Protect our Children and our Communities by Reducing Gun Violence
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Why Mental Health First Aid
1 in 5 Americans has a mental illness and many are reluctant to seek help or might not know where to turn for care. The symptoms of mental illness can be difficult to detect — even when friends and family of someone who appears to be developing mental illness can tell that something is amiss, they may not know how to intervene or direct the person to proper treatment – which means that all too often, those in need of mental health services do not get them until it is too late. As a society, we largely remain ignorant about the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and we ignore our role as responsible community members to help people experiencing these illnesses.
Mental Health First Aid is a public education program that can help communities understand mental illnesses, seek timely intervention, and save lives. The core program, delivered to nearly 100,000 people across the country through a network of 2,500+ instructors, has already saved lives and brought hope to many.
What is Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid is a groundbreaking public education program that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and overviews common treatments. Mental Health First Aid is a live training course, which uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis; select interventions and provide initial help; and connect persons to professional, peer and social supports as well as self-help resources.
Mental Health First Aid allows for early detection and intervention by teaching participants about the signs and symptoms of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and addictions. The program offers concrete tools and answers key questions like “What can I do?” and “Where can someone find mental health help?” Participants are introduced to local mental health professionals and resources, national organizations, support groups, and online tools for mental health and addictions treatment and support.
Mental Health First Aid demystifies mental illness and gives participants the capacity to obtain, process, and understand the health information and services needed to make appropriate decisions and seek care.
Reach and Audiences
In 2008, the National Council for Behavioral Health brought Mental Health First Aid to the U.S. As of January 2013, nearly 100,000 persons in communities across the country have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders through a network of 2,500 certified instructors.
Mental Health First Aid has been taught to a variety of audiences including health, human services, and social workers; employers and business leaders; faith community leaders; college and university staff and faculty; law enforcement and public safety officials; veterans and family members; persons with mental illness-addictions and their families; and the general public. New York, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and other major cities and counties have adopted Mental Health First Aid as a proven strategy to engender healthier communities by training large groups of public health and public safety workers, government and social services staff, and caring citizens.
Certified instructors teach the program in communities across the United States. To find a course or contact an instructor in your area, visit www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org.
Youth Mental Health First Aid
Youth Mental Health First Aid, focused on youth 12 to 25 years, is being rolled out across the U.S. after a year-long pilot. This version is designed to teach neighbors, teachers, parents, peers, and caring citizens how to help a child or teen who is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem or is in crisis. The youth version provides an ideal forum to engage communities in discussing the signs and symptoms of mental illness, the prevalence of mental health disorders, the effectiveness of treatment, and how to engage troubled young people in services.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults — family members, caregivers, school staff, health and human services workers, etc. — who work with young people 12-25, and is also appropriate as a peer support program for older adolescents. The curriculum spans mental health challenges for youth, review of normal adolescent development, and intensive guidance through the ALGEE action plan for both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered in the manual include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders. Youth Mental Health First Aid may only be taught by instructors certified specifically in this version.
The launch of Youth Mental Health First Aid coincides with the Born Brave Bus Tour hosted by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta’s Born This Way Foundation. The National Council is a partner on the bus tour which is comprised of interactive “tailgate” events in the 27 U.S. cities of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball tour, during which young people will meet to share stories of bravery and empowerment. Mental health professionals will be onsite to raise awareness of mental health and connect young people in need of support to local resources. Following the bus tour, the National Council and the Born This Way Foundation will offer Mental Health First Aid trainings in communities across the U.S.
The National Council for Behavioral Health seeks to make Youth Mental Health First Aid available in every one of 4,197 colleges and 13,809 school districts in the U.S.
Mental Health First Aid in Congress
There is growing support in the U.S. Congress for widespread adult and youth Mental Health First Aid training.
The Mental Health First Aid Higher Education Act (S. 3325/H.R. 5996), introduced with bipartisan support in the 112th Congress in 2012, authorizes a 5-year demonstration program to fund Mental Health First Aid training programs at institutions of higher education to give campus faculty, staff, and student leaders the training and skills they need to help someone experiencing a mental health condition. The act will be reintroduced — with broadened scope — in the 113th Congress in 2013 by its congressional champions and will need your support to go through the legislative process and become law.
On January 9, 2013, National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg met with Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun control legislation to request support for a legislative agenda that will dramatically increase access to mental health services in the United States.
Rosenberg urged the task force to take action to increase our nation’s ability to provide timely, high-quality mental health and addictions services to individuals in need by expanding opportunities for public education about mental illness and increasing the behavioral health system’s capacity to serve people desperately needing care. She urged support to allow Mental Health First Aid to be offered in every school district and college campus across the U.S.
Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) and Reps. Ron Barber (D-AZ) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) sent letters to Vice President Biden asking his task force on gun control legislation to advance programs like Mental Health First Aid. “I urge you to endorse common-sense, bipartisan proposals like the Mental Health First Aid Act. We have failed to give the mental health care needs of Americans due attention for too long — and we have paid too high a price for this neglect,” said Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ), who survived the Tucson shooting last year that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in his letter to Vice President Biden.
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber Forms Task Force to Provide Advice on Mental Health Issues
The congressman today also asked Vice President Joseph Biden to incorporate the Mental Health First Aid Act into recommendations that the task force he leads will make to Congress on how to reduce violence associated with guns. “Untreated or undiagnosed serious mental illness has been an underlying cause in a number of mass shootings,” Barber said today. “As we work to prevent gun violence, we also must take steps to identify and treat mental illness.” Barber also noted, “We need to be clear that more than 95 percent of people with a mental illness never commit an act of violence.”
Mental Health First Aid In the News
A sampling of the prolific daily news coverage on Mental Health First Aid through the years:
Philadelphia Inquirer: Mental Health’s Great Gray Area
One of the most promising is called mental health first aid…Philadelphia's program is perhaps the most audacious in the country, with a target of training 10 percent of the city's population, including teachers, first responders, parents, and others. So far, the enthusiastic public response has shown a thirst for this kind of information.
Sacramento Bee: Viewpoints, Shooters have mental health issues that need 'first aid'
One facet of the solution is social capital; the connections we have to one another, our ability to seek and receive support from others. It's this social capital that could very well be the most important weapon we have against preventing rampaging violence in our schools…If a mental health emergency were to occur, would a teacher, parent, police or pastor's congregation have the knowledge to provide support, the social capital required?...A popular course that renders such training is "mental health first aid."
Governing Magazine: Governments Discover Need for Mental Health First Aid
In at least 22 states, state or local governments supported the program, usually paying for employees to take the course. Several states -- including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland and Missouri -- already have statewide programs, which require some public workers and citizens to complete training as part of their job.
NPR Talk of the Nation: A First Aid Kit for Mental Health Emergencies
Many people know how to respond when colleagues hurt themselves, or are felled by heart attack or stroke. But few know what to do in a psychiatric crisis. The Mental Health First Aid program aims to teach people to respond to psychiatric emergencies, from anxiety to eating disorders to psychosis.
NPR Morning Edition: Mental Health First Aid, How to Help in an Emotional Crisis
We often train to know CPR or the Heimlich maneuver or first aid. But the reality is, it's much more likely that we're going to come in contact with someone suffering from an emotional crisis than someone suffering a heart attack or choking in a restaurant.
ABC News: Mental Health First Aid Courses Teach Mental Health Awareness
In a typical first aid class we learn things like CPR what to do if someone was choking… things like that but would you know what to do if someone was threatening suicide? There are now mental health first aid classes to help educate people on what to do in those kinds of situations.
The New York Times: Getting Someone to Psychiatric Treatment Can Be Difficult and Inconclusive
In the aftermath of the Tuscon shooting in Jan 2011, this article explores how Mental Health First Aid can help people recognize and respond to signs of mental illness.
USA Today: Classes teach 'first aid' for mental health crises
It's called mental health first aid. And while the classes are not yet nearly as common as traditional first aid courses — the kind you take to learn how to help a choking victim or cardiac arrest victim — they are catching on.
Washington Post: Shooting in Tucson sparks interest in 'mental health first aid' courses
Learning how to identify and help people with mental illnesses should be a first aid skill as common as CPR, according to the Washington-based National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.
Chronicle of Philanthropy: After the Arizona Tragedy, Mental-Health Organizations Seize a Moment
Regardless of the outlook for government support, some mental-health nonprofit groups are using the current interest in behavioral issues to educate the public and reach mentally ill people who are not getting adequate care. Ms. Rosenberg says her organization, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, is stepping up a campaign designed to teach ordinary people how to recognize and respond to signs of mental illness in others.
Huffington Post: The Shooter Was Not Well
I've heard countless stories about how the program has opened people's eyes about the realities of mental illnesses, while helping them do their jobs. Whether it's human resource professionals who learn how to manage a despondent, unproductive employee, or police officers who find new ways to approach suspects who barricade themselves in their homes, the training has given people from all walks of life the confidence and skills to help a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Now, I understand that no program is a panacea for these horrific acts. But perhaps if Mental Health First Aid ever becomes as popular as First Aid or CPR, more people may be able to be proactive, intervene early, and get help for someone who is "not well" and who often does not seek help for themselves.
Huffington Post: Mental Health Class
At my college in suburban Baltimore, we are beefing up the number of people on campus capable of spotting someone who may need mental health services. Having people on campus trained in Mental Health First Aid is proving to play an increasingly larger role in helping to manage anxiety about mental health issues. Coming to the aid of someone who may be going through an emotional crisis on campus can be everyone's responsibility.
Employers Web: Mental Illness in the Workplace
I found the training to be one of the most valuable courses in employee wellness that I have participated in during my human resources career. The training helps HR professionals identify employees who may be suffering a mental health problem and teaches them how to provide help and refer people to self-help and professional resources.
Police Chief: Mental Health First Aid Defuses Crises
Police in Rhode Island turned to the Mental Health First Aid training initiative after several highly publicized incidents ended tragically when officers used deadly force on suspects with mental illnesses. Mental Health First Aid training gives officers more response options to de-escalate incidents and avoid tragic outcomes. “The new training helps our officers better understand people with mental illnesses so they [the police] can respond appropriately without compromising safety,” said Chief Anthony Silva, executive director of the Municipal Police Training Academy in Rhode Island.
Meeke on Christian Television Network: Mental Health First Aid Comes to the Church
A pastor explains what we can do when members of the church come across mental health challenges and want to help in a real and tangible way. With resources like Mental Health First Aid, churches can improve the quality of health and life and make a difference in the path to healing.
EMS World: Mental Health First Aid Course Removes Stigmas Associated with Mental Illness
We cover a range of mental health issues, everything from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to alcoholism and drug abuse. But the program digs deeper by connecting people with resources and linking them to support groups. We let them know who to call for help and we teach people how they should respond or talk to someone who is experiencing any mental health issues.
Who Offers Mental Health First Aid
Mental Health First Aid was first developed in Australia and is now in 15 countries. The National Council for Behavioral Health has partnered with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Missouri Department of Mental Health to adapt the program to the U.S., develop and standardize the curriculum and training standards, and disseminate the program to all audiences. These are the only three entities authorized to provide the Mental Health First Aid manuals and curriculum and to certify instructors. All other organizations and individuals teaching any version of Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. can only do so through certified instructors and under the terms of an agreement with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Maryland; the Missouri Department of Mental Health in Missouri; and the National Council for Behavioral Health in all other U.S. states and territories