Promoting Mental Health First AidAnna Ciulla
This month, by virtue of its membership in the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition—(a local grassroots advocacy organization that promotes safe, healthy and drug-free communities)—Beach House Center for Recovery is promoting “Mental Health First Aid” (MHFA). MHFA is a movement run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and includes events and activities all around the country and throughout the year. Already, more than one million people across the United States have been trained in MHFA by more than 12,000 instructors, according to the MHFA website.
The goals of MHFA are to:
- train and equip members of the public so that they have the right skills and information to be able to help people with mental illness and substance use disorders get treatment.
- close the mental illness “treatment gap” that exists in this country (meaning that of the roughly 50 million Americans with mental illness, only a small proportion actually get medical care for their condition).
- reduce the costly damage wrought by mental illness, often measured in terms of lost jobs, broken family relationships, and substance abuse.
Why Now Is a Good Time of the Year for Mental Illness Awareness
While MHFA happens throughout the year, January seemed a fitting time to spotlight the initiative and local MHFA trainings. Our own Micah Robbins, who is active in the Coalition and spreading the word about MHFA, explained why January was a timely opportunity to shine a light on mental illness and the need for greater community awareness.
“This is a time of year when it’s dark and we see so many people seeking help,” he said.
Robbins also said winter doldrums and post-holiday letdown can conspire to make January a time when depression is a more of a threat. (A subset of people with major depressive disorder experiences a seasonal pattern to their disease: roughly five percent of Americans have major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern, which previously went by the name “seasonal affective disorder.”)
Co-Occurring Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
Supporting and promoting MHFA is a natural extension of the work of the Coalition and Beach House Center for Recovery, because of the strong relationship between mental illness and substance abuse. A very high proportion of people with mental disorders use drugs and/or alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms.
“The correlation between substance use and mental health issues is in the 70th percentile,” Robbins said. He cited Beach House Center for Recovery’s Dual Diagnosis Treatment program as further validation that substance abuse and mental illness so often go hand in hand, requiring holistic treatment.
Learn more about co-occurring addition and mental illness.
What You Learn in a MHFA Training and Why It’s Important
If you’re wondering how to help someone with a substance use disorder and/or mental illness, consider signing up for a MHFA course. The 8-hour course is designed to help you identify, understand and respond to symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse. Participants will receive an action plan for how to help someone in a mental health crisis. You’ll also get connected with mental health resources in your community.
“It’s very important for individuals and families to recognize the need to address mental health issues,” Robbins said. “The faster people get help and have an understanding of the issues they’re facing, the greater their chances of having a life of health and serenity.”
Find a MHFA course in your area.
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