1 in 5 people have a mental illness or an addiction

by Jennifer Tipton

Mental Health First Aid is funded through the Mental Health Services Act and Ventura County Behavioral Health (VCBH), it is part of the “Early Intervention and Prevention” promoted by VCBH.  Classes are at no cost to participants (a $170 value) and are taught by certified trainers that teach how to help someone with a mental health problem or at risk of suicide. Students are provided with the book, “Mental Health First Aid USA” that is packed full of information and tools that will help you to help others.

The course, hosted by the Ventura Police Department 3 times in the past 2 years, is 8 hours broken into two parts and covers depression, anxiety disorders, psychoses, substance use disorders and eating disorders.

A national survey found that in one year 18.5% of American adults suffered from some type of mental disorder, this is equivalent to 43.8 million people and of these 18.1% were anxiety disorders. That’s nearly 20% of all Americans that struggle with some type of mental health issue…

Mental Health First Aid teaches warning signs and symptoms, potential risk factors, local resources, support groups and includes a 5-step action plan on how to interact with those affected.

Unfortunately, there is a certain stigma and discrimination associated with mental health, you never hear of someone referred to as “the asthmatic” or “the cancer”, but we often hear someone referenced as “the manic depressive” or “the schizophrenic”. This type of labeling is disrespectful and creates a barrier to recovery.

Like so many things we are unfamiliar with, it is difficult (if not frightening) to know how to deal with these situations and individuals unless we educate ourselves, and that’s what Mental Health First Aid is designed to do.

Mary Ellen Collins, one of the instructors, reports that “Most walk into this class not knowing mental disorders are almost 90% treatable.” And goes on to say, “By the time they leave, they have learned the impact ONE caring person can make reaching out to someone in distress.”

For more information visit: www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

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