Interact for Health

Classes teach how to help someone experiencing a mental health challenge

(May 10th, 2016)

Would you be able to recognize the signs of a mental health challenge if it happened to someone you care about? Would you know how to help?
The need for these skills is very real. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four U.S. adults has a mental illness. And the Greater Cincinnati Community Health Status Survey found that 23 percent of adults in our region have been diagnosed with depression.

Fortunately, people right here in Greater Cincinnati are learning the signs of a mental health problem and how to help through Mental Health First Aid classes.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is much like physical first aid. If someone gets cut, people trained in physical first aid know to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. They take actions to help the injured and limit further harm.

Mental Health First Aid works the same way. People trained in MHFA learn a five-step method to help someone having a mental health challenge. They don't diagnose or treat the condition as a medical professional would. They simply assess the risk of harm, listen nonjudgmentally, give reassurance and encourage help to the person in need.

It's about "being more comfortable to be able to reach out to your neighbor and help in such a situation," MHFA instructor Brenda Konradi says. She and Jaime Wassler recently trained Interact for Health staff members in MHFA.

The interactive, engaging eight-hour class includes discussion, creative group work and role play. In one activity, physical and mental disorders such as severe asthma, vision loss, depression and schizophrenia were arranged in the order of how much they affect the people who have them. This helps participants understand how debilitating mental health disorders can be compared with other conditions. Another activity simulated what hearing voices is like so that trainees can better understand psychosis. In a demonstration, Wassler pretended to have a panic attack and Konradi showed what to do to help.

"We need to make it normal to talk about mental health," says Meriden Peters, Interact's program officer for mental and emotional well-being. "Of the one-quarter of Greater Cincinnati adults who have been diagnosed with depression, 75 percent will experience stigma. Mental Health First Aid is one tool that can teach people how to start the hard conversations about mental health."

Tristate Mental Health First Aid is offering several classes at locations throughout the area in the coming weeks. Visit https://www.mhfatristate.org/available-workshops/ to find a class near you.