First responders

The first class recently completed the mental health first aid course sponsored by the National Alliance on Mentally Ill Kauai and the state Department of Health.

Mental health first aid is the initial help given to a person showing symptoms of mental illness or in a mental health crisis until professional, peer, or family support can be engaged.

The program is an in-person training designed for anyone to learn about mental illness and addictions, including risk factors and warning signs.

Similar to CPR, participants learn a five-step action plan to help people. The class emphasizes the concept of neighbors helping neighbors.

Studies have found that people trained in mental health first aid reduce negative perceptions and attitudes about people with mental illness and addictions. Mental health first aiders have more confidence in helping others and a greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help.

Kathy Sheffield, Kauai’s only certified teacher, states that there are 10,000 teachers nationwide who have trained 500,000 people in mental health first aid. The trainees go through an eight-hour training program that teaches how to assess a situation, select and implement appropriate interventions and secure appropriate care for an individual experiencing a mental health or substance abuse problem.

The course was created in Australia in 2001, is now internationally taught, and was brought to the United States by the National Council for Behavior Health in 2008.

Trainees are from all walks of life and include school personnel, law enforcement, faith based communities, hospital and nursing home staff, human resource staff, families and young people. Sheffield has trained recruit classes of the Maui and Kauai police departments.

This training coincides with the 2016 National Suicide Prevention Week.

NAMI and the Department of Health plan to offer this free training to any interested party on a quarterly basis.

Info: Kathy, 635-3239

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