Why You Should be Trained in Mental Health First Aid

mental health first aid2Are you trained in first aid? Now I don’t just mean CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. I also mean the lesser known Mental Health First Aid.

I had wanted to take a Mental Health First Aid class for years. I liked to think I would know what to do in a situation, but it’s always good to get professional training. I finally got the chance to take a training class this weekend. Classes are either split into a few hours over two days or are the full class in one day. I did the one-day version, and it was a long class if I’m being honest, but it was absolutely worth it.

Little did I know I would have an opportunity to use my new training just a couple of days later. This morning while I was sitting in the lecture hall before class, someone approached the person sitting next to me. They were friends, I assume. The one who approached was upset that he had gotten a D on an exam. He made the comments that “I’m going to kill myself” and “drink myself into a comma tonight.”

Immediately, my ears perked up. The student walked away before I could say anything, so I sat there contemplating what to do. Now as someone trained in Mental Health First Aid, I couldn’t just let this go. I’d rather annoy someone and have it be a false alarm than to assume they didn’t really mean what they said and be wrong. The Mental Health First Aid training not only gave me the knowledge and practice of what to do, but also gave me the resolve take action and the courage to say something.

 My only option was talking to the friend still sitting next to me, but class had started, so I decided to pass him a note. I wrote:

“Hey. I don’t know you, but I’m trained in Mental Health First Aid, and I overheard your friend saying he’s going to kill himself. If I were you, I would check in on him to see if he means it. I know some people say this as a joke, but sometimes people mean it, and it’s a cry for help. It’ better to have him mad at you for an awkward conversation than dead.”

Then, during a lull in lecture I put the note on his desk and told him to read it. As he read it I also passed him one of the pamphlets they gave us at the training with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and warning signs of suicide risk. Thankfully, he took it well; he read the note, read the pamphlet, and put it in his pocket. Then, lecture continued.

I was quite nervous doing this and was shaking for a few minutes afterwards, but it was absolutely worth it. As much as I hate jokes about suicide, hopefully the student just meant it as a joke, but if not hopefully his friend will check in with him and he’ll get help if needed.

As class ended and we put our books away the friend turned to me and said, “Thank you.” You are so very welcome.

Are you trained in Mental Health First Aid? Would you know what to do to potentially save a life? To find a Mental Health First Aid class in your area click here.

Morgan

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