KEEP IN MIND
Knowing mental health
first aid can help
WRITTEN BY GREG HARRIS
ILLUSTRATED BY MICHAEL BYERS
Mental health first aid can help stabilize a situation until professional support can be on the scene.
If you found your neighbour lying
in pain beside a ladder, you would
likely help. But if you noticed the same
neighbour having a panic attack, you
might not know what to do.
In both cases, the right type of first aid
training can help.
“Much like physical first aid, mental
health first aid helps people to step
into a situation where help is needed,”
says Mike Pietrus, director of Mental
Health First Aid at the Mental Health
Commission of Canada (MHCC). The
commission has offered mental health
first aid training since 2010.
“Without training, people may lack the
confidence to help, or the stigma around
mental health issues may be a barrier in
itself,” Pietrus says.
One in five Canadians grapples with a
mental health problem, making it more
common than many people realize.
Mental illness can range from depression
and schizophrenia to panic attacks and
addictions. These illnesses are not always
immediately visible––or understood.
Jody Walker, an Alberta Health
Services mental health promotion
facilitator based in Grande Prairie,
provides MHCC training in mental
health first aid.
“People sometimes don’t realize they
may hold an inaccurate and stereotypical
idea of mental illness. But it may be
affecting someone right next to you
—someone who is employed with a