SHADY COVE, Ore. – Mental Health First Aid visits communities that are lacking mental health support and teaches community members about how to recognize a mental health crisis and how to respond.
The curriculum is taught internationally, in 19 different countries. It started in Australia and follows a five-step action plan known as ALGEE; assess for risk of suicide or harm, listen nonjudgmentally, give reassurance and information, encourage appropriate professional help and encourage self-help and other support strategies.
“What we’re trying to do is build awareness of how common mental illness is in the community and get people to where they can recognize the signs and symptoms of someone having a crisis or in distress and build resources in the community,” said Monica Staar, a Mental Health First Aid Instructor.
Staar explained that the need for community outreach comes after major budget cuts for Jackson County, “The county cut its mental health department budget severely and they’ve outsourced the ongoing counseling treatment services. Right now, the only thing you can receive from County Mental Health is crisis intervention.”
Staar says that surrounding communities in the state have implemented response teams to aid people in crisis. “What they do in Eugene is they have a trained mental health worker and a medic that will go out as a pair,” said Staar, “The fire department and the police department partner with white bird clinic and they have three vans 24/7 that will respond to mental health calls.”
Staar explains that current protocol in Jackson County is a police response, which can escalate the situation, “You get a mental health worker but that person, for their own safety, will be accompanied by a sheriff’s deputy with a sidearm. For most people in a mental health crisis, just the appearance of the uniform, never mind the weapon, is going to escalate their anxiety.”
Mental Health First Aid is also taught in high schools around the world. “We found in the school districts where it’s taught and embraced by the administration, not only do the students recognize when fellow students are having a problem but they will relay and report to teachers and administration,” said Staar, “and teen suicide has plummeted.”
Staar says that she believes improvement is possible in Jackson County, “it’s a matter of political will and leadership because the money is there. There’s amazing amounts of grant funding from the federal government from Health and Human Services.”
Staar will be teaching the curriculum throughout May and June for free. Listed below is a schedule of upcoming workshops. If you are interested in having Mental Health First Aid come to an area near you, you can email Monica Staar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mental Health First Aid Workshops:
(all meetings go from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
Rogue Retreat – Thursday, May 17
Ruch Library – Friday, May 18
Jackson County Fire District 5 (Phoenix) – Thursday, May 31
Ashland Community Hospital – Friday, June 1
Providence Hospital – Saturday, June 2