The state Department of Mental Health is taking a new approach to educating the public, with hopes it will help more people that need assistance get it and break down stigmas associated with the mentally ill.
Starting this month, the Department of Mental Health will hold “mental health first aid training” courses in Jefferson City. Dottie Mullikin says the plan is to bring in regular citizens from around the state to the trainings who can take these skills back into their communities back home.
“They do not learn how to become a therapist or to become a counselor, that’s not what this course is for, any more than if you take a regular fist aid course you don’t become a physician. You simply learn how to provide immediate assistance and support until the person can get to a professional,” Mullikin said.
For example, the trainings teach you how to talk to someone who is depressed or may be considering suicide to help identify when they may need to seek professional help. At the same time, Mullikin hopes those that take the 12-hour course can help spread awareness and possibly break down stigmas. She says one in four Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime.
“People need to understand that having an anxiety disorder, dealing with depression, you shouldn’t feel any different about that than if you suffer a broken leg,” Mullikin said.
Just as important, she says, is the knowledge that mental illness is not a life sentence; that it can be treated. The new program is based off a course that originated in Australia.
The DMH also has plans to train people to teach these 12-hour “first aid” courses in the near future. The plan is that those people will then be able to go back to their communities around the state and hold their own ‘first aid’ trainings. Mullikin hopes that over time this program can reach thousands of Missourians.
The first 12-hour session is April 26-27, which Milliken says is already full. Each session is limited to around 25 participants because it is intense and interactive. The other two-day sessions are May 24-25 and June 21-22. If you are interested, contact the DMH at (573) 526-3702.
Mullikin says the 5-day training for future instructors of the first aid courses is tentatively scheduled for July.