By JOSHUA BENDER
Capital News Service
LANSING — The number of individuals trained in mental health first aid that help people detect early warning signs of mental illness is growing in Michigan, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
More than 25,000 Michiganders are trained in mental health first aid, most of them taught as a result of state grants, according to Jennifer Eisner, public information officer for the department.
A state grant for nearly $2 million was divided between two mental health services providers, according to Beverly Ryskamp, supervisor at one of the grant’s recipients, Grand Rapids’ Network 180.
“It’s (Mental Health First Aid) to reduce the stigma and to help people be somewhat like a first responder,” said Wendy Ludwig, a mental health first aid trainer and St. Joseph Community Health therapist.
The program is taught over the course of a day through a series of steps, according to Cynthia Petersen, community provider relations coordinator for Traverse City-based Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. People who take the course are not mentally ill but need to know how to help those who are.
“The program teaches a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and get appropriate care and resources in the community for anyone experiencing a mental health problem,” Petersen said.
The program draws a wide range of participants, Petersen said.
“It’s particularly appealing to law enforcement people, first responders and social workers,” Petersen said. “We also have had a lot of students and human resources professionals.”
According to Ryskamp, the program is designed to appeal to people from a wide range of backgrounds.
“It’s really designed to be a response that anyone can use regardless of whether or not they have any mental health expertise,” Ryskamp said. “It’s like a mental health counterpart to CPR, so people can know effective first steps to handling someone with a mental crisis.”
The program originated in Australia and is taught globally, according to Petersen.
By JOSHUA BENDER