If you have a cut or a scrape, you wash it and put on a band-aid. If you encounter someone whose heart suddenly stops beating, the immediate reaction is to call 911 and begin CPR. These responses are ingrained into society as the accepted practice. These skills are the basic measures taught in first aid training. What happens if the brain starts to function differently? For example, a person could experience a hallucination or their heart starts to race creating an overwhelming fear (panic attack).  What would you do? This is where Mental Health First Aid comes in.

A couple weeks ago I took the USA Mental Health First Aid course. Within the four walls of the training room, there were individuals from a range of different backgrounds. Each person had their own reasons and experiences leading them to this classroom. For me, taking the course was a way to learn about the experiences of others in terms of mental health conditions. The training in many ways was eye opening and transformative to the way in which I view and have a deeper understanding of the struggle, pain, and power of the human mind.

Mental Health has always been present in my life in many different capacities.  Even with some level of experience under my belt, I find myself to be far from an expert. Mental Health First Aid provides a viewpoint that fosters understanding. The understanding on a deeper level establishes a connection to a person in crisis. The course underlines the deep prevalence of Mental Health problems people face within our own community.

Mental Health First Aid taught me to look beyond the diagnosis and understand that each person creates their own path to recovery. Furthermore, we participated in activities that simulated what it would be like to experience a hallucination. The activity helped reduce stigma and fostered compassion that is needed to help someone whom is suffering. Mental Health First Aid amplifies  a level of empathy that allows for trust to be created. I deeply encourage you to take this course to further your own understanding.

Madeline Kuon, MHANYS Intern, Franklin and Marshall College

June 2017