Learn Mental Health First Aid at Linden Oaks. Read more.
Naperville Sun Health Matters:
Program destigmatizes mental illness
Apr. 13, 2011
You may know CPR and splinting, but how about mental health first aid?
Two people return to work after being absent for several weeks. When colleagues ask the first about it, he tells them he had a hip replacement. This brings a sympathetic chorus: "How did it go? How are you feeling now?" The second employee reports she was hospitalized for a bout of major depression. This announcement is met with silence. Why the difference?
According to Mary Lou Mastro, CEO of the behavioral health hospital, Linden Oaks at Edward, most people "don't know what to say."
"There still is a stigma and a lot of misunderstanding associated with mental illness," Mastro said. "This causes some people to distance themselves from those struggling with these disorders. The result is an environment where most people with mental health problems don't connect with the help they need."
Mastro and others at Linden Oaks believed it was time to do something about the situation.
"When we learned about Mental Health First Aid, we felt it was the right education program for our community," Mastro said.
MHFA was developed in Australia 10 years ago. It teaches participants from the community to identify individuals who may need help for a mental illness, effectively communicate with them and guide them to appropriate professional help. The goal is to make responding to a mental health crisis as common as using CPR in a cardiac emergency.
With the support of Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel, City Manager Doug Krieger and others, Linden Oaks introduced MHFA earlier this year to Naperville and key groups in the community, including school districts, churches, police and fire departments and social workers.
Among the first members of the community who will take part in MHFA training will be personnel in the Naperville school districts and police and fire departments. But the training isn't just for first responders and educators. Individuals 16 and older can sign up as well.
Four members of Linden Oaks' staff, among the first in the Midwest to be certified as instructors, will lead the 12-hour training program that consists of three four-hour sessions.
The trainers use an approach called ALGEE, in which participants learn steps to help those who may be suffering from a mental illness:
Assess risk of suicide or harm
Give reassurance and information
Encourage people to get appropriate professional help
Encourage self-help strategies (providing information on support groups, helpful readings and websites)
MHFA participants also learn the basics of common mental illnesses. According to Charla Waxman, Linden Oaks director of marketing and education and one of the MHFA trainers, the program covers depression and related disorders; eating disorders; substance abuse; psychoses, such as dementia and schizophrenia; and anxiety disorders.
Upon completion of the training program, participants receive a Mental Health First Aid certificate.
"We're excited about this program," Mastro said. "We know many people in our community suffer from mental illness. As more people are trained, it will help spread the word that treatment is available, and it can work. And it will help chip away at the stigma surrounding mental illness."
Submitted by Edward Hospital
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services