Statistics demonstrate that mental illness will affect many of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones at some point in their lives. With one in four adults and 10 percent of children diagnosed with mental illness each year, it’s more than likely that you’ll be touched in one way or another.

If faced with someone in a mental health crisis, would you know what to do? You already know that CPR is the correct emergency response for someone having a heart attack, but would you know how to help someone in the grips of a panic attack?

Mental Health First Aid is an internationally accepted program aimed at educating the public on how to respond when someone is in a mental health crisis. This training educates people on the signs and symptoms of mental illness to help demystify the stigma, which has created a barrier that prevents many people from getting treatment.

Mental Health First Aid training can equip anyone with the tools necessary to assist someone during a mental health crisis. It’s not training to make a diagnosis, but rather what to say or do, and how to get the help necessary for someone who is in a crisis situation.

The interactive training occurs in an eight hour session (or two four-hour sessions) offering information on different mental health conditions, examples of crisis situations, and the appropriate actions that can be administered until a crisis has been resolved or been referred to appropriate professionals.


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Sometimes it’s as simple as asking someone if they’re "OK" or if they "need help." The training reduces uncertainty so people are not afraid to step into a situation and help someone in need.

Participants learn to recognize multiple behaviors that indicate when someone is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. With mental health incidence increasing in our community, it’s important to recognize the signs and respond so that people in need of help are able to receive help. Mental Health First Aid is the roadmap to getting there.

There’s also a separate training for Youth Mental Health First Aid, which is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, and other caring citizens how to help a young person between the ages of 12-18 who is experiencing a crisis situation, mental health or addiction challenge. Evidence has shown that recognizing the early signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge, and accessing appropriate help, will lead to greater results over time.

Helping to remove the uncertainty and better understand the signs of mental illness will reduce the stigma of mental illness and ensure that people in our community including our family and friends, do not suffer unnecessarily. When confronted with someone in a mental health crisis, people trained in Mental Health First Aid can make a real difference!

Nancy Bemis and Dora Cecchini are certified Mental Health First Aid trainers working at United Counseling Service. An internationally accepted program which started in Australia and has migrated to the United States, Mental Health First Aid is taught across the country. The next Youth Mental Health First Aid training by UCS will take place on August 28. Contact UCS at 802-362-3950 or visit ucsvt.org/mhfa for more information.