It didn’t take long for June and July classes to fill up for the free community health first aid training in Blue Springs.
“We filled 25 spots in under 10 hours,” Blue Springs director of communications Kim Nakahodo said.
The city of Blue Springs is partnering with FirstCall, a company that provides educational services to those with an alcohol or drug addiction, to offer a free 8-hour mental health first aid training course, which will take place June 23 at the Howard L. Brown Public Safety Building.
There will also be a class in July which already has all spots filled, and there will likely be a class in August available, according to Nakahodo.
“We’ve provided more training courses this year than any time in the past,” FirstCall director of prevention services Margaux Guignon said. “An organization will usually contact us and let us know they want the training. We usually close it off at 25 people and there is always a wait list.”
Added Nakahodo: “We knew it was going to fill up but not that fast. We’re ecstatic about that because this kind of training is remarkable.”
The course, which is offered by FirstCall in four counties (Jackson, Cass, Lafayette, Johnson), is designed to help people know how to spot someone who is going through a mental health or substance abuse crisis and what to do in those situations. Being able to detect when someone is going through a mental health crisis can be difficult, says Guignon. The goal is to connect those with such issues with the appropriate support and resources when necessary. FirstCall also offers mental health first aid training for mental health crisis situations for youth.
“Mental health is a very sensitive subject,” Guignon said. “We talk a lot about suicide in there and we want to protect other’s privacy as far as what can be shared in the course. There’s a lot of interactive activities. Dealing with a mental health crisis is uncomfortable and something that not a lot of people do.
“We aren’t the professionals. We can’t diagnose. But we can help them get the assistance that they need.”
Some of those activities include role playing and the trainers will act out someone having a mental health crisis. Risk factors and warning signs are also discussed to help spot when someone is in need of assistance. Several illnesses are covered including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
According to a press release from the city of Blue Springs, one out of five Americans have a mental illness, but many are reluctant to seek help or might not know what to do when dealing with them.
The course also helps patrons know how to interact with someone with a mental health crisis. A 5-step action plan is taught to those who attend the course that guides them through the process of offering support and reaching out.
“It’s kind of like CPR training when you learn the ABCs,” Guignon said. “But for mental first aid it’s called A.L.G.E. That is assessing listening, giving reassurance and encouraging appropriate professional help.
“We also go over the signs and symptoms of psychosis. We want people to be able to detect those signs early enough to get them into treatment early enough before it gets worse.”
Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said the course is extremely beneficial.
“Through this program, we hope to take the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems,” she said in a release. “When more people are equipped with the tools they need to start a dialogue, more people can get the help they may need.”
But addressing people with a mental disorder usually comes with a stigma, which is something else the trainers address in the course.
“We want to reduce that stigma,” Guignon said, “and we want to show people that these illnesses are common and that people can recover from them. These stigmas stem from the fear of the unknown. We want to show people what a mental health illness is.”
According to the release, in 10 years, mental health first aid has become a popular movement in the U.S. More than 550,000 people are certified mental first aiders.
When the August classes become available, those interested can register by calling 816-655-0497. Space is limited.