Learn How To Provide Support At Mental Health First Aid Training
Published: April 18th, 2023
By: Sarah Genter

Learn how to provide support at mental health first aid training

CHENANGO COUNTY — Chenango Health Network will be hosting another free, virtual mental health first aid training open to anyone 18 years and older.

The training will take place over two Zoom sessions from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 and Tuesday, May 23. Two hours of pre-course work must be completed individually at least 48 hours prior to the start of the first session. Participants must also attend both sessions in order to receive mental health first aid certification.

To register contact Mental Health First Aid Training Coordinator Tiffani Gager at tiffani@chenangohealth.org or 607-337-4233.

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Gager said the course focuses on "how to be a safe, non-judgemental space and to look for signs and symptoms in others of having a mental health or substance use challenge."

Participants will learn how to safely assess a situation, approach an individual with a calm demeanor, recognize when someone is at risk of self harm or suicide, confidentiality, and how to provide support, whether that be connecting an individual to further resources or just being a listening ear.

Participants will also received updated supports and resources available to those experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge, and learn about ALGEE, which stands for "Assess for signs of risk of suicide or harm; Listen nonjudgementally; Give reassurance and information; Encourage the person in a very gentle manner to open up and be vulnerable; and then Encourage that self help and connecting to the supports that are offered."

Gager said the course also places an emphasis on self care, to allow mental health first aiders to recognize when they need support, and help them remember that although they are here to help others, they have to take care of themselves, too.

"It’s not just about helping others, but it’s also about self care, because taking on someone else’s trauma can be a lot, and you need to learn how to process that, and also talk to other mental health first aiders to process that," she explained. "We've heard feedback going, 'I know I was struggling, but I didn’t know I was struggling that bad, that I needed to take care of me.' It brings a lot of things to light. It almost makes you stop and force people to look at themselves and go, 'are you taking care of yourself?'"

Becoming certified in mental health first aid can prepare individuals to help others when they're out in public, help themselves, and help friends and family members of all ages, Gager said. She recommends everyone to take the course, so they know how to respond if needed.

"How do you respond if you’re not prepared? But mental health first aid prepares you to be that mental health first aider and prepares you to say, ‘tell me more about that if you’re comfortable," said Gager.

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"When somebody asks us, ‘how are you?’ We’re so programmed to go, ‘oh I’m good.’ And even though our whole world could be on fire, we’re still programmed to be like, ‘oh, I’m good," she continued. "But what happens when somebody says, ‘you know what, I’m not doing so hot'? And this mental health first aid teaches you to go, ‘can you tell me more about that? I'm here if you need a friendly ear. I’m here if you need that safe space.’"

"Even if you might never quite use it, at least you’ll have it in your back pocket for the moment that you just might. Or even just for yourself, to just remember, 'I’m worth self care. I'm worth caring about, and mental health first aid taught me that.' And that, to me, is invaluable."

Chenango Health Network offers free mental health first aid training to the community on a monthly basis, and also offers free trainings for businesses and organizations. Courses are available as entirely in-person, entirely virtual, or hybrid formats.

To learn more about Chenango Health Network, visit ChenangoHealth.org or the Chenango Health Network Facebook page.