What is Mental Health First Aid?

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We all know what first aid is. Many of us even have first aid kits that we’ve purchased or put together ourselves. We pull them out when we have a minor injury and grab the bandages or whatever we need. But what about first aid for the mind? It’s not a kit you can pick up at the pharmacy, but there is mental health first aid that you can learn. Find out more about it in this episode.

 

About Our Guest

Michael Cox is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas and is the co-founder and therapist in private practice at Whole Life Priorities. Cox is also a level II restoration therapist and a master trainer for Mental Health First Aid. He has more than 20 years of experience working with adolescents and their families, individuals and couples. Prior to entering the counseling and mental health field, Cox was a vocational minister.

 

 

 

 

MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Editor’s NotePlease be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Narrator 1: Welcome to the Psych Central show, where each episode presents an in-depth look at issues from the field of psychology and mental health –  with host Gabe Howard and co-host Vincent M. Wales.

Gabe Howard: Hello, everybody, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Show podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and with me as always is Vincent M. Wales, and we are here today with Michael Cox who is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas and is a co-founder and therapist in private practice at Whole Life Priorities. But we’re here to talk to him today because he is a master trainer for Mental Health First Aid. Michael welcome to the show.

Michael Cox: Oh thank you.

Vincent M. Wales: We’re glad to have you.

Gabe Howard: We are excited to have you on the show because we’ve heard a lot in the last few years about mental health first aid. It’s everywhere. We’ve read tons of good stuff, tons of questionable stuff. There is a lot of conversation about what mental health first aid is and who it’s helping and what it does. And we’re basically counting on you to answer all of it. So can you explain to us exactly what is mental health first aid?

Vincent M. Wales: No pressure.

Gabe Howard: No pressure.

Michael Cox: No pressure. The first thing the easiest thing is, if you looking for a plug is MentalHealthFirstAid.org is the plug but mental health first aid or Mental Health First Aid USA is probably going to give you a whole lot more information. I want to give you however briefly the history. Mental Health First Aid started in Australia in 2001, came to the United States in 2008. And what we now call our adult curriculum and in 2012 we started a pilot youth mental health first aid where it’s for adults that work with youth. There is now a teen Mental Health First Aid for teens ages or grades ten through twelve and the basics of first aid is to be able to help individuals who are non clinicians. Individuals who are not trained in the mental health field to know how to help an individual who may be just having a mental health problem. So something that interrupts their day to day life or in a mental health crisis. So very simply let’s use CPR First Aid but for mental health. Just know what to do. Build some confidence around individuals to know what to do if their friends, families, or someone the community is experiencing mental health problems and then know how to get them to the appropriate help if needed.

Vincent M. Wales: Well that sounds like a good thing.

Gabe Howard: Yeah. That sounds incredible. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have taken both curriculums. I’ve taken Mental Health First Aid youth which is sort of designed so that adults can work with young people, it’s not designed to educate young people on how to spot a mental health crisis, but rather for adults to help out young folks. And then the Mental Health First Aid adult curriculum is for adults to help out other adults. So I’ve taken them both, and they’re both very good classes in my opinion. I think that they’re in some ways, speaking as somebody who lives with bipolar disorder, I don’t think that they go deep enough. Because it’s mental health, it’s not mental illness. It’s looking for that spark. And in other ways I think that there’s just so much missing information when it comes to mental health, mental illness, and psychology that eight hours isn’t enough. So can you talk a little bit about what somebody walking out of the eight hour class is really trained or educated to do specifically.

Michael Cox: Yeah. When someone walks out of class the first thing that, you know, the biggest goal of mental health first aid is that education and awareness. So the first thing is just to give a very basic understanding of what a mental health problem is. When an individual is experiencing a mental health problem, what does that look like? So it’s bringing that stigma down, reduction of that stigma and helping people be a little bit more aware of signs and symptoms and so to know what is what a person might display and I might be going on in an individual’s life and it could be you said a mental health crisis earlier and it could be in a crisis situation or just in a day to day life. And so not everybody with a mental health problem they’re necessary to the point of an actual crisis an individual walking out that class will be able to know when there’s something that happens disrupting an individual’s life for a long period of time say about two weeks. To know something’s happening, something’s going on. They may not. They’re not going to be able to diagnose and I’m not going to be able to come out with an actual diagnosis of what that problem is but get a very general understanding of what the problem is. On the adult curriculum they go into a lot more detail with those specific disorders just to get a little bit more understanding. As you can imagine for adults, most adults, if they’re experiencing a mental health problem are pretty much going to be in the throes of it. And so what is presented in adults can be different than in youth and so in our adult curriculum individuals are able to walk away with a little bit more understanding of what are depression, anxiety, psychosis, suicide awareness, and just some basics around suicide. And then once I see someone experiencing these problems disrupting their life I know what to do. There’s a little more confidence and being able to respond. So if you just simply faced something like CPR First Aid you know we don’t go in and give you the tools to do heart surgery or reset a bone but know what to do initially. So someone else that has more training than you to be able to help, that kind of stabilizing. And so Mental Health First Aid does that. And we do it in those different modules as you said. You have an adult to adult, adult to youth, and that’s a youth program. And then now our newest one is teen with teenagers in high school 10th grade to 12th grade. And so just building a confidence and an awareness around what to do if someone experiences a mental health problem and or a crisis and how to definitely respond and how to get them to the help that is necessary.

Gabe Howard: One of the things that I think we should probably clarify is that you know so many people think that mental health first aid is designed to help people respond to people who are mentally ill. It’s like well this is a way the society can interact with the mentally ill, help the mentally ill, stop the mentally ill, prevent the mentally ill, etc., etc. You know obviously I think it’s very very important if I myself am in a crisis because of bipolar disorder I want somebody to help me. But it’s called Mental Health First Aid for a reason. Because there’s a world of difference between mental health and mental illness. Can you talk about that for a moment?

Michael Cox: In the training we kind of purposely use the words like mental health problem to kind of give this kind of a broad overview and we use that for a couple of purposes. One, for your average mental health first aider they are not going to get the skills and techniques to know how to diagnose and so we don’t want someone walking away thinking like they’ve got that tool but we’re just talking about something that’s disrupting an individual’s life. And so, for a first aider, if I’m engaged with someone I can tell that something’s happening that’s outside of their norm that maybe outside of what they’re experiencing and going through. And may maybe interrupting their ability to go to work. Their ability to engage in their daily activities or ability to have satisfying relationships. So something’s going on, something’s happening and I can figure out how do I engage as a first aider here? And then help that individual or aid individual and if needed professional help is needed. We try to connect that individual to professional help. The opposite end of that is an individual who actually has an actual diagnosis. And so an individual who’s been to trained professional and has been through the process of assessment and has an actual diagnosis with an actual mental illness. And so, you still can utilize Mental Health First Aid in those situations. The first aider is not going to walk away with the ability to make that diagnosis and so we learn or try to teach folks what their role is in those individuals lives. And we use the general term mental health problem, just to help community individuals know, they don’t really have to worry about it or try to focus on the diagnosis itself. It is just simply noticing someone experiencing the problem or crisis. And what do I do in the situation to help them out? The distinction is mental health problem, we use that as a general term when it comes to identifying with something disrupting an individual’s life. And then we look at actual diagnoses, for an example of depression, or anxiety disorders. We look at what those are, what the criteria for those are, and what an individual might be experiencing in those. And just for general education for the community to understand those and get a better understanding. And what how to respond in a specific situation. Each participant walks away with a manual that goes in to much more detail on some of those disorders, and more specifically on what the role of a first aider might be in the lives of individuals experiencing specific illnesses or disorders.

Vincent M. Wales: Thank you. I have a question about one of the, I guess you call them, modules. You have the adult and you have the youth and you mentioned a teen one now. Is that one similar to the adult one in that it’s for adults to recognize the symptoms in teens? Or is it for teens to also be involved in that end of it?

Michael Cox: I’m really excited about this. Well, it’s in the pilot stage. We have eight high schools or youth communities across the country. They currently are our pilot sites that are piloting this brand new curriculum. And so the National Council for Behavioral Health. partnered with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to bring this to the United States and so this curriculum also started or originated in Australia. But the format is completely different, it is for adults. Adults will be teaching the course, but they are teaching teenagers from 10th grade to 12th grade, or 15 to 18, and they are being trained to be first aiders so very similar to the adult curriculum and then the youth adults working with teenagers. This is for teenagers. For their peers to know exactly how to help when they’re in certain types of situations. And the biggest premise of that is to be able to recognize signs or symptoms, but also to know how to get that young person to a trusted adult. It is not helping teenagers take on the problems or diagnose or any of those things. It’s simply like the other two curriculum. When something’s going on, something’s happening, I recognize something going on with my friend, how do I intervene if necessary and how do I get them to a trusted adult?

Vincent M. Wales: Excellent. I was hoping you’d say that.

Michael Cox: Yeah. It’s great. I got the privilege of being one of the National trainers to help develop an instructor training. I will say the curriculum is amazing. I work with teenagers on a regular basis and constantly hear them trying to help their peers in many new and different ways. But they’re really just not feeling equipped. And so this really does give them a chance. The format right now is developed and meant to be taught in schools. It will be part of the curriculum and so they can either do five 45 minute sessions or they can do three 75 minute sessions. And they are taught within the school settings. It can be done outside of the school, but it’s been set up right now that a majority of our pilot spots are in schools.

Gabe Howard: We’re going to step away to hear from our sponsor and we’ll be right back.

Narrator 2: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com, secure, convenient and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face-to-face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Gabe Howard: Hello, everybody, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Show podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and with me as always is Vincent M. Wales, and we are here today with Michael Cox who is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas and is a co-founder and therapist in private practice at Whole Life Priorities. But we’re here to talk to him today because he is a master trainer for Mental Health First Aid. Michael welcome to the show.

Michael Cox: Oh thank you.

Vincent M. Wales: We’re glad to have you.

Gabe Howard: We are excited to have you on the show because we’ve heard a lot in the last few years about mental health first aid. It’s everywhere. We’ve read tons of good stuff, tons of questionable stuff. There is a lot of conversation about what mental health first aid is and who it’s helping and what it does. And we’re basically counting on you to answer all of it. So can you explain to us exactly what is mental health first aid?

Vincent M. Wales: No pressure.

Gabe Howard: No pressure.

Michael Cox: No pressure. The first thing the easiest thing is, if you looking for a plug is MentalHealthFirstAid.org is the plug but mental health first aid or Mental Health First Aid USA is probably going to give you a whole lot more information. I want to give you however briefly the history. Mental Health First Aid started in Australia in 2001, came to the United States in 2008. And what we now call our adult curriculum and in 2012 we started a pilot youth mental health first aid where it’s for adults that work with youth. There is now a teen Mental Health First Aid for teens ages or grades ten through twelve and the basics of first aid is to be able to help individuals who are non clinicians. Individuals who are not trained in the mental health field to know how to help an individual who may be just having a mental health problem. So something that interrupts their day to day life or in a mental health crisis. So very simply let’s use CPR First Aid but for mental health. Just know what to do. Build some confidence around individuals to know what to do if their friends, families, or someone the community is experiencing mental health problems and then know how to get them to the appropriate help if needed.

Vincent M. Wales: Well that sounds like a good thing.

Gabe Howard: Yeah. That sounds incredible. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have taken both curriculums. I’ve taken Mental Health First Aid youth which is sort of designed so that adults can work with young people, it’s not designed to educate young people on how to spot a mental health crisis, but rather for adults to help out young folks. And then the Mental Health First Aid adult curriculum is for adults to help out other adults. So I’ve taken them both, and they’re both very good classes in my opinion. I think that they’re in some ways, speaking as somebody who lives with bipolar disorder, I don’t think that they go deep enough. Because it’s mental health, it’s not mental illness. It’s looking for that spark. And in other ways I think that there’s just so much missing information when it comes to mental health, mental illness, and psychology that eight hours isn’t enough. So can you talk a little bit about what somebody walking out of the eight hour class is really trained or educated to do specifically.

Michael Cox: Yeah. When someone walks out of class the first thing that, you know, the biggest goal of mental health first aid is that education and awareness. So the first thing is just to give a very basic understanding of what a mental health problem is. When an individual is experiencing a mental health problem, what does that look like? So it’s bringing that stigma down, reduction of that stigma and helping people be a little bit more aware of signs and symptoms and so to know what is what a person might display and I might be going on in an individual’s life and it could be you said a mental health crisis earlier and it could be in a crisis situation or just in a day to day life. And so not everybody with a mental health problem they’re necessary to the point of an actual crisis an individual walking out that class will be able to know when there’s something that happens disrupting an individual’s life for a long period of time say about two weeks. To know something’s happening, something’s going on. They may not. They’re not going to be able to diagnose and I’m not going to be able to come out with an actual diagnosis of what that problem is but get a very general understanding of what the problem is. On the adult curriculum they go into a lot more detail with those specific disorders just to get a little bit more understanding. As you can imagine for adults, most adults, if they’re experiencing a mental health problem are pretty much going to be in the throes of it. And so what is presented in adults can be different than in youth and so in our adult curriculum individuals are able to walk away with a little bit more understanding of what are depression, anxiety, psychosis, suicide awareness, and just some basics around suicide. And then once I see someone experiencing these problems disrupting their life I know what to do. There’s a little more confidence and being able to respond. So if you just simply faced something like CPR First Aid you know we don’t go in and give you the tools to do heart surgery or reset a bone but know what to do initially. So someone else that has more training than you to be able to help, that kind of stabilizing. And so Mental Health First Aid does that. And we do it in those different modules as you said. You have an adult to adult, adult to youth, and that’s a youth program. And then now our newest one is teen with teenagers in high school 10th grade to 12th grade. And so just building a confidence and an awareness around what to do if someone experiences a mental health problem and or a crisis and how to definitely respond and how to get them to the help that is necessary.

Gabe Howard: One of the things that I think we should probably clarify is that you know so many people think that mental health first aid is designed to help people respond to people who are mentally ill. It’s like well this is a way the society can interact with the mentally ill, help the mentally ill, stop the mentally ill, prevent the mentally ill, etc., etc. You know obviously I think it’s very very important if I myself am in a crisis because of bipolar disorder I want somebody to help me. But it’s called Mental Health First Aid for a reason. Because there’s a world of difference between mental health and mental illness. Can you talk about that for a moment?

Michael Cox: In the training we kind of purposely use the words like mental health problem to kind of give this kind of a broad overview and we use that for a couple of purposes. One, for your average mental health first aider they are not going to get the skills and techniques to know how to diagnose and so we don’t want someone walking away thinking like they’ve got that tool but we’re just talking about something that’s disrupting an individual’s life. And so, for a first aider, if I’m engaged with someone I can tell that something’s happening that’s outside of their norm that maybe outside of what they’re experiencing and going through. And may maybe interrupting their ability to go to work. Their ability to engage in their daily activities or ability to have satisfying relationships. So something’s going on, something’s happening and I can figure out how do I engage as a first aider here? And then help that individual or aid individual and if needed professional help is needed. We try to connect that individual to professional help. The opposite end of that is an individual who actually has an actual diagnosis. And so an individual who’s been to trained professional and has been through the process of assessment and has an actual diagnosis with an actual mental illness. And so, you still can utilize Mental Health First Aid in those situations. The first aider is not going to walk away with the ability to make that diagnosis and so we learn or try to teach folks what their role is in those individuals lives. And we use the general term mental health problem, just to help community individuals know, they don’t really have to worry about it or try to focus on the diagnosis itself. It is just simply noticing someone experiencing the problem or crisis. And what do I do in the situation to help them out? The distinction is mental health problem, we use that as a general term when it comes to identifying with something disrupting an individual’s life. And then we look at actual diagnoses, for an example of depression, or anxiety disorders. We look at what those are, what the criteria for those are, and what an individual might be experiencing in those. And just for general education for the community to understand those and get a better understanding. And what how to respond in a specific situation. Each participant walks away with a manual that goes in to much more detail on some of those disorders, and more specifically on what the role of a first aider might be in the lives of individuals experiencing specific illnesses or disorders.

Vincent M. Wales: Thank you. I have a question about one of the, I guess you call them, modules. You have the adult and you have the youth and you mentioned a teen one now. Is that one similar to the adult one in that it’s for adults to recognize the symptoms in teens? Or is it for teens to also be involved in that end of it?

Michael Cox: I’m really excited about this. Well, it’s in the pilot stage. We have eight high schools or youth communities across the country. They currently are our pilot sites that are piloting this brand new curriculum. And so the National Council for Behavioral Health. partnered with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation to bring this to the United States and so this curriculum also started or originated in Australia. But the format is completely different, it is for adults. Adults will be teaching the course, but they are teaching teenagers from 10th grade to 12th grade, or 15 to 18, and they are being trained to be first aiders so very similar to the adult curriculum and then the youth adults working with teenagers. This is for teenagers. For their peers to know exactly how to help when they’re in certain types of situations. And the biggest premise of that is to be able to recognize signs or symptoms, but also to know how to get that young person to a trusted adult. It is not helping teenagers take on the problems or diagnose or any of those things. It’s simply like the other two curriculum. When something’s going on, something’s happening, I recognize something going on with my friend, how do I intervene if necessary and how do I get them to a trusted adult?

Vincent M. Wales: Excellent. I was hoping you’d say that.

Michael Cox: Yeah. It’s great. I got the privilege of being one of the National trainers to help develop an instructor training. I will say the curriculum is amazing. I work with teenagers on a regular basis and constantly hear them trying to help their peers in many new and different ways. But they’re really just not feeling equipped. And so this really does give them a chance. The format right now is developed and meant to be taught in schools. It will be part of the curriculum and so they can either do five 45 minute sessions or they can do three 75 minute sessions. And they are taught within the school settings. It can be done outside of the school, but it’s been set up right now that a majority of our pilot spots are in schools.

Gabe Howard: We’re going to step away to hear from our sponsor and we’ll be right back.

Narrator 1: Thank you for listening to the Psych Central Show. Please rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you found this podcast. We encourage you to share our show on social media and with friends and family. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show. PsychCentral.com is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website. Psych Central is overseen by Dr. John Grohol, a mental health expert and one of the pioneering leaders in online mental health. Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who travels nationally. You can find more information on Gabe at GabeHoward.com. Our co-host, Vincent M. Wales, is a trained suicide prevention crisis counselor and author of several award-winning speculative fiction novels. You can learn more about Vincent at VincentMWales.com. If you have feedback about the show, please email [email protected].

About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is also one of the co-hosts of the popular show, A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. As a speaker, he travels nationally and is available to make your event stand out. To work with Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

 

 

Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. He is also the author of several award-winning novels and creator of the costumed hero, Dynamistress. Visit his websites at www.vincentmwales.com and www.dynamistress.com.

 

 

 

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