Program aims to educate public on how to identify, respond to emotional distress

Posted at 5:42 PM, Oct 10, 2018

One in 4 people will experience poor mental health at some point in their lives. With Wednesday being “World Mental Health Day,” it’s opening up the conversation about mental health.

A growing program aims to educate the public on mental health, especially when it comes to suicide. The class helps people know what to ask and what to not ask to those who express thoughts of suicide. The questions can be uncomfortable, but the discomfort is designed to save lives.

“Mental Health First Aid is exactly that,” says Ann Blush, an instructor with the program. “It is a first aid.”

Mental Health First Aid is a training program that teaches members of the public how to identify and respond to someone in emotional distress.

“How to move forward, how to deal with the person, how to best get them the help that they need,” explains Blush.

Blush, as well as most of the students in this class, has worked in law enforcement.

“Yes, we do deal with this on a daily basis, whether we're on patrol or whether we're in the jail,” says Deputy Jeff Wilson.

Wilson says the tools he's learning in the class give him a better chance of success.

“There was a lot of times that had I known what I know now, those situations would have looked a lot different,” he says.

There are mental health first-aid classes for law enforcement, fire and EMS, but classes through Mental Health First Aid are for any member of the public, and they’re getting more and more popular.

“Mental Health First Aid is not meant to train you to become a therapist; it is meant to assist you in terms of recognizing those signs and symptoms and getting,” says Dr. Barb Becker, with Mental Health First Aid Colorado. “The help that you need.”

Here are some things instructors say you can do:

  • Add the National Suicide Hotline Prevention number in your cell phone so you don't have to look for it.
  • Practice asking direct questions.
  • Be aware of signs and symptoms in yourself, because mental health first aid can help you, too.

While the impact of Mental Health First Aid is still being determined, there's one thing Blush believes all students take away.

“Empathy to be able to put themselves in the person's shoes that's going through this,” Blush says.