Millions of people are trained each year to provide lifesaving CPR training that someday could be used to recognize a potential physical health problem and then hand off the sufferer to someone trained to take over. The same canít be said though for those experiencing mental health problems ó even though the likelihood of encountering someone with an emotional or mental crisis is much greater than the need to help someone with a heart attack or other physical challenge.

That all is changing though. A new mental health first aid training program, pioneered in Australia at the University of Melbourne, is available here. A training overview on the eight-hour program was presented Thursday by Diane Drake, executive director of the Elizabeth Layton Center for Hope and Guidance, 2537 Eisenhower Road. The training, which was sponsored by the Franklin County Development Council, especially applied to the human resources and other employee relations specialists in attendance but has a much broader audience potential.

Why should HR professionals worry about this ailment? Because mental illnesses account for 15 percent of the total economic burden of all diseases in the United States, which results in more than $79 billion in lost productivity annually.

Other possible candidates for training, according to the website include: educators/school administrators, college/university leaders, members of faith communities, homeless shelter staff and volunteers, medical personnel including nurses/physician assistants and primary care workers, police/first responders/security personnel, policy makers, substance abuse professionals, social workers and front line workers who interact with the public as well as other caring community and family members.

The training, just like CPR, doesnít make the trainee an expert. Instead, it can help them identify a problem situation and how to stabilize it until a professional can provide needed assistance. At a price of just $30 for one dayís training and manual, there is no doubt more people easily could be armed with more knowledge on how to help someone in a crisis mental or emotional health situation and avert possible worsening of the situation. Mental health disorders are among the most impactful of illnesses. They interfere with a personís ability to go to school and/or work and deal with personal relationships.

Mental health first aid training can not only help reduce the stigma associated with mental health diseases, but it also can empower anyone to be better informed and prepared to help someone in need. The more people who are trained means the more people who can be helped. Call (785) 242-3780 to register for a class or to learn more.

-Jeanny Sharp,

Editor and publisher