Help your community--Mental Health First Aid.
Linden Oaks program teaches signs, symptoms of mental disorders
By Angela Bender For The Sun
March 12, 2012
It is, of course, expected that professionals in mental health fields be trained to recognize and assist those with mental health issues. However, there are many community members who regularly encounter mental health crises, whether in their professional or personal lives, who do not have the tools to properly identify or guide those individuals. In response, Linden Oaks at Edward Hospital in Naperville has introduced Mental Health First Aid with the goal of making the response to a mental health crisis as common as using CPR in a cardiac emergency.
“This (program) really gives you the chance to understand what’s happening,” said Barry Groesch, MHFA coordinator for Linden Oaks, “Not to diagnosis, just to pick up some clues that there are issues and then how to help that person.”
Because one of every four adults in the United States suffers from some form of mental illness, chances are, many in our community will encounter an individual in need of assistance at some point. MHFA teaches a first-aid approach to helping people with mental health issues. Participants learn how to assess the risk of suicide or harm, listen non-judgmentally, give reassurance and encouragement, and provide self-help strategies. The program also covers the basics of common mental illnesses, including depression, eating disorders and substance abuse.
“I think people are really open for this right now,” Groesch said. “We are trying to help get the stigma away from mental health issues. It’s a basic approach … so they walk away learning something and how to use and implement those tools.”
Groesch was a police officer for 30 years before he came to Linden Oaks specifically to help implement MHFA. As a police officer, he encountered individuals with mental health issues, and recognizes that there are a variety of people who may be suffering from mental illness and are in need of support. By training community members to be able to identify those individuals, the program also aims to remove the stigma associated with the disease.
“This isn’t ‘those people’,” Groesch said. “This is us — our friends, our neighbors our co-workers, our relatives.”
Since implementing the program a little more than a year ago, Linden Oaks has the support of, and has partnered with, about 30 community groups for the MHFA program, including Little Friends, Naperville Township, and DuPage Probation and Court Services. Individuals that have taken the 12-hour class have included students, lawyers, police officers, teachers, classroom assistants, construction workers and nurses.
Amy Barth, a social worker at Naperville North High School, participated in the course last summer and has become a trainer for the program.
“What (MHFA) really helped me do was get back to the idea of being kind and understanding where people are coming from,” Barth said.
Groesch said a lawyer came back to him three days after completing the program to let him know he already had implemented what he had learned.
“It’s an avenue for creating this greater understanding of mental illness,” Barth said. “It’s a reminder about what people are struggling with and the lack of understanding.”
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services