Written with Assistance by Shannon Walsh
Imagine you’re at work, at the store or at a restaurant when you see someone who appears to be in mental health distress. What do you do?
About one-in-four people in the United States will experience a mental health or addiction disorder each year, according to The National Council for Behavioral Health. That means that the likelihood of any one of us being in a situation like the one described above is very real.
The National Council has a goal to train 1 million people to respond and be effective in these situations. So far, they have trained more than 500,000 people, including First Lady Michelle Obama. The eight-hour course is designed to better prepare people to prevent mental health problems from escalating and show them how to intervene during crisis. Much in the way that everyday people can learn the steps of CPR to address choking, they also can learn best practices to respond to crises such as panic attacks or suicidal behaviors.
My colleague Shannon Walsh and I recently completed Mental Health First Aid Training. Through role play and group exercises, Shannon and I thought more concretely about the ways in which mental health disorders affect real people in real communities. We reflected on the ways that fear or misconceptions about mental health disorders prevent people from reaching out when they witness someone struggling. Our deepened understanding of the value of social support will make us better neighbors, more informed communicators and better stewards of our clients’ issues.
Trainings are just one way that communicators can immerse ourselves in our subject matter. We can also attend relevant conferences, read books or news articles, or watch webinars or documentaries to gain deeper understanding about the issues we work on and the real people they affect.