Mental Health First Aid training this week

Published 12:48 am Tuesday, January 23, 2018


NATCHEZ — An international mental health training program has few seats left in its Natchez certification program this Thursday and Friday.

The Mental Health First Aid Certification Training, a program that originated in Australia but has spread rapidly across the United States, provides instruction for emergency and first-response treatment for individuals with mental illness.

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The program has two sessions — one focusing on the treatment of adults and one catering to the needs of youth.

Both courses will be held on the Alcorn State University Natchez campus in the graduate business building. The adult session will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and the youth session Friday at the same times.

Dr. Bradford Smith, who will lead both sessions, said the course is not specifically designed for healthcare professionals but instead provides training for anyone interested in first-response care for those affected by mental health conditions.

“We are not teaching people to diagnose illness,” Smith said. “We are equipping you with the knowledge of what to do if someone around you is in mental crisis.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness found that approximately 1-in-5 Americans is affected by mental illness.

Smith said this statistic alone should help convince the general public of the importance of knowing first response to mental crisis situations.

Even if you have no direct relation to someone with a mental illness, Smith said, it is very likely someone around you does.

“This is designed for people from all walks of life — people with family members with mental illness, teachers, health providers, parents,” Smith said. “Think of your church or your neighborhood, who might be affected by this?”

At the end of the eight-hour session on Thursday and Friday, participants take a test on the material covered and, upon passing, receive the Mental Health First Aid Certification.

Smith said the adult care class has maxed out its registration limit of 30 attendees, but the youth class still has seats available.

Because interest in the class has been high, Smith said he is very open to returning to do a second course.

In fact, he said, he and organizer Ann Elizabeth Kaiser of Catholic Charities, Inc., have already begun a list of individuals in the area who would be interested in the course but could not attend the first.

One of the benefits of the class, Smith said, is the normalization of mental illness in everyday conversation.

The stigma that often surrounds mental illness can sometimes dissuade those suffering with such a condition, he said, which only prolongs the issue.

“Part of the problem is seeing mental health as an underlying issue in reality,” Smith said. “We see ourselves as spreading the word.”

Registration is available online at Cost is $30 for each session.