Assisting and responding to mental health challenges

Article written by Mary Metten, Health and Well-being Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Many of us currently are or have been certified for first aid at one time or another. The first time I took a first aid course, I was a teenager and still remember the ABC acronym (although nowadays it’s CAB).

First aid training teaches the everyday person basic skills which can be used to assist someone experiencing a health crisis until they can be helped by a professional. Now what about someone experiencing a mental health crisis?

Mental Health First Aid

Mental Health First Aid is an internationally taught curriculum which has been licensed and adapted around the world. The United States adapted and has been utilizing the training for over a decade now. Adult Mental Health First Aid (AMHFA) and Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) differ in that AMHFA is for adults assisting adults and YMHFA is specific to adults assisting youth.

Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based course, giving people tools to identify, understand, and respond to someone who might be struggling with a mental health or substance use challenge, while connecting them to support and resources when needed.

Mental Health First Aiders learn a 5-step Action Plan that guides us through the process of reaching out and offering appropriate support, so everyone can feel more confident in their next steps.

Mental health impacts everyone

In the United States, one in five Americans has a mental illness. The pandemic dramatically increased symptoms of depression and anxiety for both youth and adults. Half of all mental health conditions start by age 14 and the average delay between onset of symptoms and intervention is eight to 10 years.

Symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges can be difficult to detect. Additionally, friends, family, and others may find it hard to know when and how to step in.

“Never has it been more important for our communities to talk about mental health and substance use,” says Chuck Ingoglia, president and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “This program is breaking down barriers and stigma so that together we can learn how to better support one another. Without mental health, there is no health.”

Having more people in Kenosha County with the skills and comfort to respond to and assist one another can result in a ripple effect of a healthier community for everyone.

Become a First Aider

In 12 years since Mental Health First Aid has been in the United States, more than 2.5 million people have been certified as Mental Health First Aiders.

UW-Madison Extension is offering trainings throughout summer 2021. They are being offered virtually and at no cost for adults living or working in Wisconsin. The virtual AMHFA and YMHFA both have a self-paced, online portion, followed by a live, group Zoom training.

You will find dates and registration information at https://go.wisc.edu/lxlfne. For anyone with general questions, contact Mary Metten at mary.metten@wisc.edu or 262-857-1946.

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