Mental Health First Aid: Helping Those Experiencing a Mental Health Crisis

Print icon

You’ve probably heard about CPR, right? It’s a certification that anyone can earn to help someone in medical distress. But did you know there is a similar program to help people learn how to provide first aid in the event of a mental health crisis? It’s called Mental Health First Aid. Licensed clinical social worker Patricia Graham from Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living has details. 

Q: Give us an overview of the mental health first aid program offered at the Institute of Living. 

A: Mental Health First Aid is an international program originating in Australia in 2001 and now offered in more than 20 different countries and has been offered in the U.S. since 2008. The Youth Version was created in 2012 and is meant for adults who work with youth, typically between the ages between 12-18 years of age. Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour certification course meant to help participants identify signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and substance use.  The Youth version offers additional education regarding working with youth and how to differentiate between signs and symptoms of mental health problems and adolescent development, because sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate the two.  For example, I work with adolescents who are experiencing psychosis, some of the signs and symptoms when it’s beginning to develop can look like typical adolescent development.

Q: What are some of the risk factors and warning signs that you teach participants to recognize?

A: We teach signs and symptoms of mental health problems, signs being things you can see, for example an individual withdrawing from family and friends when they didn’t before and symptoms which is what individuals experience, for example feeling lethargic. MHFA provides education on the differences between depression, anxiety, substance use, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts.  MHFA also provides the next step of not only identifying the signs and symptoms but what you actually do and what you can say.  I find teaching this course, many people don’t know what to say, often thinking they may say the wrong thing and when we don’t know what to say we often do nothing.

Q: Once a mental health first aider establishes there may be a crisis…what do you teach them to do?

A: What I think is great about MHFA is not only educating people on mental health problems but providing them the ALGEE action plan. ALGEE stands for

  • Assessing for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listening non-judgmentally
  • Giving reassurance and information
  • Encouraging appropriate professional help
  • Encouraging self-help and other support strategies

In terms of the youth version, we utilize specific scenarios which are tough to handle, taking participants through the ALGEE action plan, including crises such as suicidal thoughts, non-suicidal self-injury, panic attacks, and disruptive or aggressive behavior.

Q: Can anyone sign up to take this course and become certified? Or are there specific qualifications in order to participate?

A: Yes, it’s meant for the general community who typically don’t have experience in the mental health field, you do not need any particular qualifications to participate. The Youth version is great for teachers, coaches, parents, and those who work with youth in any capacity. The more to be trained the better.  There is a standard version of MHFA and the Youth version and both are very different, with different manuals, I encourage people to take both if they are able.

To register for a FREE Mental Health First Aid class, click here, or call 1-855-HHC-HERE (1.855.442.4373). 

 

 

 

 

 


What's New


Mystic Health Center Approved

Hartford HealthCare’s proposed 47,000-square-foot, three-story health center in Mystic received unanimous approval from the Stonington Planning and Zoning on Jan. 14. Approval clears the way for groundbreaking at the site off of Coogan Boulevard. The health center will include primary care, cardiology, diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation, Headache Center, Movement Disorders Center,...


Hospital Security: A Dog’s Perspective

All across Hartford HealthCare you’ll find safety officers dedicated to ensuring that your experience is the best it can be. But there is one new officer getting a lot of attention. With four paws and a tail, he answers to just one name: Nitro. Nitro is a two-year-old Belgian Malinois....


HHC Hospital’s Welcome New Year’s Babies

Hartford HealthCare’s hospital’s rang in the new year with some new babies. Take a look at the first babies of 2019 at Backus Hospital, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut, Hartford Hospital and MidState Medical Center. Backus Hospital Lianna Noelle Robin was Backus Hospital’s first baby of 2019,...


How Hartford HealthCare Cares for the Community

People attracted to working in healthcare as a vocation have certain qualities. They’re caring and kind. They are the kind of people who want to make things better for others as a way of life. In this edition of the HealthCare Matters podcast, Elliot Joseph and Rebecca Stewart explore that...

The benefits of video games.

A Prescription Video Game? How Gaming Can Be Good for You

They’ve been linked with all sorts of negative things like violence and obesity but some video games can actually enhance psychiatric treatment, according to Dr. Paul Weigle, associate medical director of outpatient services at Natchaug Hospital. Noting that the Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the first prescription video...


A Coach’s (Cancer) Team

Kristina Gianinni of Avon is a businesswoman, mom, and volunteer. Her avocation, though, brings her to a local basketball court. Here, she coaches young men and women – including her own daughter. The sport provides her both focus and refuge from life’s pressures, while helping others appreciate the positive aspects...