Mental health first aid coming to Callaway

Mental health first aid is a new concept coming to Central Missouri.

A Fulton-based foundation has teamed up with the Missouri Department of Mental Health to offer training to service providers on how to identify and provide temporary help to people who may have a mental illness.

Charles Riley of Fulton, president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Fulton State Hospital, said the foundation and the Missouri Department of Mental Health are offering a program on “how to recognize the warning signals of mental illness so it can be recognized as soon as possible and treated more easily and with greater success.”

“The program is primarily directed to those who are likely to come in contact with individuals who may be suffering from this disease. They include teachers, clergy, counselors, police, firemen, emergency medical staff, doctors and nurses,” Riley said.

He said Missouri is the first state in the nation to adopt the Mental Health First Aid program, which was developed in Australia.

“Early detection and treatment can make all the difference in the world to the individual suffering from mental illness, their family and their community,” Riley said.

“We at the foundation are so pleased to be able to bring this training to the community. I know it can make a tremendous difference to those who attend the class and to those with whom they work.”

Riley said the program has been so well received in Canada that Canadian schools require all staff members to take the Mental Health First Aid course.

Susan Groves, a foundation member, said another initiative sponsored by the Missouri Department of Mental Health has received a faith-based grant to provide the same mental health first aid training at no cost to church members in leadership positions. This includes church elders, Sunday School teachers, pastors and any person involved in leadership within a faith-based setting.

“Studies show that two of every 10 members of a church will face a mental illness crisis in their immediate family,” Groves said.

She said any Callaway County church member in a leadership position in their church can contact her at (573) 220-9153 to make arrangements to receive the free training made available through the special faith-based grant.

The award-winning program was developed at the Orygen Youth Health Research Centre at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

The mental health first aid program helps members of the public support someone in a mental health crisis situation or who is developing a mental disorder.

First aid training is widespread throughout the world to give members of the public skills to help an injured person before medical help arrives. But most first aid courses typically teach little or nothing about helping people with mental health issues, even though this is a common occurrence.

Many people with first-aid training have never had a chance to use their CPR skills. However, they stand a good chance of contacting someone with mental health issues.

The course does not qualify persons to be a counselor, just as a conventional first aid course does not qualify someone to be a doctor or a nurse. It is designed to provide initial help before professional help is sought.

The course teaches the symptoms, causes and evidence-based treatments for depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis, and substance abuse. The course also addresses possible crisis situations arising from mental health problems and offers ways to deal with them. Crisis situations could include a person who is feeling suicidal, a person having a panic attack, a person who has had a recent traumatic experience and a person who is acutely psychotic and perceived to be threatening violence.

For more information about a group or individual starting or participating in a course, contact the Fulton State Hospital or the Foundation for the Advancement of Fulton State Hospital. Susan Groves, trainer with the program, can be contacted at (573) 642-7523.

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