NYAPRS Note: This article advertises an ECPR course designed in Rochester for first responders and other community members. It is valuable to note that the instructor for the course previously taught it to the Rochester Police Department. Further training in counties across the state (and country) like ECPR could reduce the impact of violent altercations between police and individuals in emotional distress.
First Aid Learning Expands to Mental Health Emergencies Democrat & Chronicle; by Patti Singer, 11/19/2013
If someone is having a heart attack and a bystander knows CPR, there's a chance to offer help until professionals arrive.
Now that same concept is being applied to mental health by teaching people first aid for an emotional emergency.
"People are quick to take CPR and first aid, which is awesome," said Eric Weaver, executive director of the mental health consulting firm Overcoming the Darkness.
Weaver, former mental health coordinator for the Rochester Police Department, will instruct the mental health first aid certification course offered Saturday by the Mental Health Association. "We're coming across people struggling with mental health issues. How can we better equip people to deal with those issues?
"We're trying to make this as common as CPR."
The course is designed for first responders, but is open to others — teachers, clergy, human resource professionals and just regular people — who might find themselves with someone who is distressed.
"When people are present when there is some sort of mental health crisis situation, they'll have enough basic knowledge to calm the person down and keep things under control until professional help is there," said Patricia Woods, president and chief executive officer of the Mental Health Association.
The course is funded in part by proceeds from the St. Rita parish fiesta held in early June. The Webster church regularly makes a donation to the community and wanted to pay tribute to the West Webster Fire Department in memory of the firefighters killed and injured last year in the Christmas Eve ambush.
Tom Cali, co-chairman of the fiesta, said the aftermath of the shootings focused on gun control, but not on mental health.
A parishioner knew Woods, and Cali asked about programs that the agency wanted to fund but couldn't afford. "It seemed like a perfect fit," he said.
In any given year, approximately one-quarter of adults could be diagnosed with one or more mental health disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In Monroe County, the Adult Health Survey 2012 reported that 9 percent of adults said they experienced frequent mental distress for at least 14 out of the previous 30 days.
Despite the number of people reporting mental health concerns, first aid programs are relatively new. The idea was developed in Australia in 2001 and brought to the U.S. in 2008.
Participants aren't trained to diagnose mental illness but to understand more about depression, psychosis, substance abuse disorders and the stigma surrounding the disease. Instead, they are taught to assess a situation and offer reassurance before it escalates.
"First aid is given until the appropriate help arrives or the crisis is resolved," said Weaver.