Press Releases: Capitol Hill Offers First Aid for Mental Health
CONTACT: Communications@thenationalcouncil.org or 202.684.7457
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2011— On May 26, as part of May is Mental Health Month, the Congressional Mental Health Caucus hosted a “Mental Health First Aid” education session for members of congress and their staff in Washington, D.C. The four-hour session, taught by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, provided instruction in recognizing the signs and symptoms for common mental illnesses, crisis de-escalation techniques, and connecting people in need with self-help and professional resources.
The session was hosted by Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano and Congressman Tim Murphy,
Mental Health Caucus co-Chairs and Congressman Pete Stark, Mental Health Caucus member.
“Mental health is the issue we do not see, we do not hear, and we do not talk about, because of the stigma,” said Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus in introducing the program. “We often ignore it politically, and even personally sometimes. This attitude needs to change. Mental health is critical for our economy, the welfare of our soldiers and family members, and the future of our country.”
With congressional staff on heightened alert after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon, AZ on Jan. 8, the Mental Health First Aid program used role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess a mental health crisis, select interventions and provide initial help. The training also addressed the risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. The four-hour program, offering excerpts from the 12-hour Mental Health First Aid certification course, was modified to specifically reflect situations that congressional staff experience every day.
“Education is the best weapon against stigma,” said Rep. Pete Stark, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health on the Committee of Ways and Means. “One of the reasons mental health disorders can be so challenging to handle is because the illness often prevents the person from understanding they need help. I know from dealing with situations in my own office how upsetting it can be, for my staff and my constituents both, when we don’t understand what someone needs or how we can help. Knowing how to recognize the signs of mental illness and how best to respond are critical to helping us provide the kind of service our constituents deserve.”
Since Mental Health First Aid was introduced in the USA in 2008, more than 20,000 people have been trained and 1,200 instructors certified across the country. The program is coordinated by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
“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,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the 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.
The National Council is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) association of 1,800 community healthcare organizations that provide treatment and rehabilitation for mental illnesses and addiction disorders to nearly 6 million adults, children and families in communities across the country. Learn more at www.TheNationalCouncil.org.