KEEP IN MIND
Knowing mental health
first aid can help
WRITTEN BY GREG HARRISILLUSTRATED BY MICHAEL BYERSMental health first aid can help stabilize a situation until professional support can be on the scene.
If you found your neighbour lyingin pain beside a ladder, you wouldlikely help. But if you noticed the sameneighbour having a panic attack, youmight not know what to do.
In both cases, the right type of first aidtraining 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 theconfidence to help, or the stigma aroundmental health issues may be a barrier initself,” 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 HealthServices mental health promotionfacilitator based in Grande Prairie,provides MHCC training in mentalhealth first aid.
“People sometimes don’t realize theymay hold an inaccurate and stereotypicalidea of mental illness. But it may beaffecting someone right next to you—someone who is employed with a