More than 40 million Americans are living with a mental health condition or substance use disorder. That’s one in five adults.
Fifty-six percent of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment and about 50 percent of those suffering from a mental illness have a co-occurring substance use disorder. As a result, death by suicides and opioid overdose has reached epidemic proportions across our nation.
However, these alarming statistics aren’t exclusive to adults. According to Discovery Mental Health Treatment, only 30% of depressed teens are being treated for it. And about 20% of all teens experience depression before they reach adulthood.
The problem is that many of those who are in need of help avoid reaching out for help because they simply can’t afford it, or they don’t know how to access care.
The stigma around mental health and substance use is real and deep-rooted in our culture. It’s no surprise that many people struggling with mental illnesses are reluctant to ask for help – or don’t even realize that what they are experiencing is real and treatable. This can mean those most in need of mental health services don’t receive help until it is too late. And even if you realize someone may be developing a mental illness and recognize that something is seriously wrong, most well-meaning people don’t know when or how to intervene, let alone where to direct someone to professional help.
What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental health and substance use disorders are not always easy to recognize. That’s why it’s important for everyone to understand the warning signs and risk factors. This is the goal of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). MHFA is ground-breaking public education program that helps communities understand mental illnesses, equips people to seek timely intervention, and save lives.
Developed by the More Aware Initiative and funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Mental Health First Aid promotes early detection and intervention by teaching parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, faith community leaders, peers, neighbors, law enforcement and health and human services workers how to identify and respond when someone experiencing a mental health, addiction or crisis.
Similar to First Aid and CPR , MHFA equips participants to offer practical help to an individual developing a mental health problem or experiencing crisis – until professional treatment is available or the crisis is resolved.
“Mental Health First Aid Training should be just as common as CPR or Stop, Drop & Roll,” says Kathy Myers, Director of Communication and Advocacy for Coleman Professional Services. Kathy, whose focus is youth Mental Health First Aid, is one of several certified MHFA trainers on staff at Coleman.
Mental Health First Aid in Action
To date, more than 1.5 million people in communities across the country have been trained in Mental Health First Aid through a network of more than 14,000 certified instructors. These instructors help give anyone the skills to make a difference for someone facing a mental health or substance use crisis. It all starts with awareness, understanding, basic tools and an action plan.
Mental Health First Aiders learn a 5-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening and supporting the individual in crisis, and helping the individual to access professional help. The training also provides an opportunity for participants to engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.
ALGEE: The Action Plan
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
- Listen non-judgmentally.
- Give reassurance and information.
- Encourage appropriate professional help.
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
In addition to learning the ALGEE Action Plan, training sessions can be personalized for specific groups or audiences.
“The core of each training is the same, however there are modules that can be incorporated that help our trainees understand the specific risk factors and needs of different groups,” explains Kathy.
“For example, we have different modules that can be added for groups who work with Veterans, seniors, children and more.”
The goal of all these modules is the same:
- Increase knowledge of signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illnesses and substance use disorders
- Identify multiple types of professional and self-help resources for individuals with a mental illness or substance use disorder
- Increase confidence in and likelihood to help an individual in distress
- Increase mental wellness for participants
Studies have demonstrated that MFHA works to combat negative attitudes and perceptions of individuals with mental illnesses. The MHFA course aims to provide a setting where participants can feel comfortable discussing personal and hypothetical scenarios where the tools and training of the program could be put into action to help.
You Can Be Part of the Solution
Know the Signs
Educate yourself on the signs of depression, anxiety and other common behavioral health issues. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are ok, if they feel safe at home, if they have a support system or if they contemplating suicide.
Affordable Care Is Available
If you see someone struggling with their mental health who cannot afford treatment, connect them with Coleman. We see you, we believe you, we want to help – regardless of your ability to pay.