As the mental health movement in America continues to gain traction, more people want to learn the best way to care for their loved ones who show signs of mental illness. Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties offers mental health first aid training.
Sabrina Thompson discovered this training through the South Church of the Nazarene in Lansing, and is a first-time participant. “I dealt with mental illnesses all my life, and I have younger siblings. I took this course just to find a way to help my friends and family if they were ever in a situation where they needed it,” says Thompson.
This course was organized through Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This 8-hour session prepares members of the community to provide mental health first aid.
Mental health first aid is the initial help given to a person showing symptoms of mental illness or in a mental health crisis. Trainings are targeted toward adults. They teach parents, caregivers, teachers, family members, human and health service workers and others citizens how to help individuals who are experiencing mental health challenges.
The instructors of this program, Julie Barron and Becki West, work in communities around Lansing. They specialize in mental illness and recovery.
Besides training, Barron and West work as customer service representatives for Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties. They help people suffering from mental health issues receive professional services in their own community. This job is part of a mental health movement founded on the belief that mental health services are best provided in the community in which the person receiving such service lives. Annually, the organization serves over 10,000 persons at 122 sites throughout the tri-county region, according to their website.
Barron says, “We help people if they have problems with their services, and we get them into where they can get help. I also teach a wellness recovery action plan class. We go to different venues and do health and wellness booths.”
West is also in charge of helping people with limited English proficiency. She helps coordinate translation services with agencies and case workers.
Mental health first aid does not teach people to be therapists.
“We are first-aiders, not crusaders, meaning that we don’t diagnosis. We are more focused on helping people get professional services,” says Barron, who has worked in mental health for eight years.
This training teaches the ALGEE Action Plan. ALGEE stands for steps to take when confronted with someone experiencing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and substance use disorders.
The steps are:
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
- Listen non-judgmentally.
- Give reassurance and information.
- Encourage appropriate professional help.
- Encourage self-help.
The training also taught people how to help someone seek professional mental aid if they did not have insurance. Aimee Beltran, who was an employee of Sparrow Hospital and participant of the training, said, “Sparrow had caseworkers that would help people work with the Department of Human Services to figure out payment options,” says Beltran. “And it would be retroactive to the day they came into the hospital.”
Participants hope to learn how to care for loved ones who are dealing with mental instability. At the end of each training, participants who attend receive a certificate.
(Editor’s note: This article was changed to correct the name of Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties and the location of the church.)