First aid for the mind

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April 25, 2016 1:42 PM

Most people are aware of First Aid, which is help given to a sick or injured person until professionals can step in, but there is a newer form of the treatment and its being offered at the Lloydminster Learning Council Association.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is like the regular kind many people are familiar with, said Darlene MacDonald, executive director of the Learning Council, except it focuses on the mind instead of the body. 
“It’s more about mental health problems and intervention strategies that are used to assist people,” said MacDonald.
“We talk about things like substance related disorders, mood disorders, anxiety and psychotic disorders and suicidal behaviour and panic attacks.”
The Learning Council used to offer the course just once a year, but have expanded it twice annually because of high demand.
The next MHFA course is offered May 3 and 4, in two six hour sessions, with a $150 fee attached.
MacDonald said the class is usually taken by employees and staff of non-profit organizations like the Interval Home,
The Men’s Shelter and the City of Lloydminster, but she also insists it’s good for everybody.
“I’ve been wanting to take it myself, I would say the last six years, but I never want to take somebody else’s spot, so every year I say to our receptionist, ‘Put my name down because I really want to take this class,’” she said.
And inevitably, every year the receptionist has to take MacDonald’s name off the list because it fills to capacity.
She said one of the reasons for everyday citizens to look into getting their MHFA certificates is because a person never knows when someone close to them might display symptoms of mental health distress.
Whether it’s a neighbour, friend, family member or co-worker, having the knowledge in how to intervene during these kinds of emergencies could come in handy. 
“You could recognize what they’re going through and assist them, because often the person themselves don’t always recognize it, and they can go and get some additional help,” said MacDonald.
“Mental health affects everybody in every walk of life.”
Aside from recognizing mental health issues and learning how to address them, the two-day course also seeks to remove the stigma that can come with mental health problems.
MacDonald said experts are finding stress and mental health issues are affecting people at younger ages more than ever before, so some of the strategies being taught involve coping and dealing with the stigma.
“There shouldn’t be a stigma—it should be like any other health issue that you may need to go get help from professionals for,” she said.
“So the more the general public, families and friends are aware of mental health issues, the better it is for individuals and the community as a whole.”

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