Jamie Arnold: Support first aid training for mental health providers

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

Each year, more than 6 million young people receive treatment for severe mental, emotional, or behavioral problems,” according to a 2015 study.

In America mental health is becoming more and more of a prevalent issue. Younger and younger people, especially youth, are being diagnosed with various disorders.

Ensuring healthy development for all youth is crucial and can be assisted by implementing The Mental Health First Aid Act of 2016 (H.R.1877).

The Mental Health First Aid Act is similar to CPR and first aid training, which is required for most work places. According to the American Red Cross, more than 9 million people are certified, whereas only 1 million people are certified in mental health first aid.

This bill simply puts grants toward teachers, students, staff, and many businesses to hold this first aid course. It is completely free to utilize if done through the school or business the person works for or attends.

So why are more people not stepping up to the plate and taking action?

H.R. 1877 would allow for more people to be trained to identify crisis and help a person find local help services. This is pertinent because 37 percent of students with a mental health condition drop out of school, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

If more teachers were trained, they could identify early on the condition and be able to guide the individual to the help he or she needs.

With this bill the person trained in mental health first aid would be able to help when a person is having an escalation of a condition and help calm that person down.

After the initial help that is immediately needed, the person who is certified would be able to knowledgeably refer the student to a local mental health provider.

Mental health first aid may seem complicated when one says it aloud, but when you think about it and go through the training it is really quite simple.

Having gone through the training myself, I have found it is simpler than first aid and CPR. There is much less to remember.

Unlike CPR, in which you have to be able to react quickly and remember precisely what you have been taught previously, mental health first aid is much simpler.

It does not require you to remember a bunch of material; instead, it just requires you to have the knowledge on where to get help, which can be done by having a list of mental health facilities printed previously as a go-to guide.

It is less complicated than first aid because it does not requiring a person to put hands on another person, so it is decreasing the likelihood of furthering trauma.

For example, with first aid you may need to wrap someone’s ankle for a sprain; if done wrong, that sprain could turn into a fracture or broken bone.

The Mental Health First Aid Act is only asking people to have knowledge of simple things like taking deep breaths or knowing where the local hospital is located.

The Mental Health First Aid Act of 2016 is merely asking for continued funding for people to be trained to identify mental health conditions and opens up the number and types of people who are eligible to be trained.

San Francisco’s Unified School District makes it simple for its teachers to provide first aid by supplying a flipbook for instructions on various situations, along with phone numbers of resources to call.

But nowhere in the booklet does it give resources for mental health providers, nor does it have any pages about what to do with someone who is suicidal, depressed, bipolar or even autistic (“Healthy Kids, Healthy San Francisco”).

On average, one person commits suicide every 16 minutes, according to DOSomething.org. Being able to identify any mental health condition can completely prevent a suicidal because a person would be able to have access to treatment earlier.

The Mental Health First Aid Act can literally prevent the worst from happening with simple training.

Jamie Alysse Arnold is a graduate of Purdue University and is studying for a master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California. She grew up in the Santa Clarita Valley and attended Canyon High School.

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