Mental Health First Aid

I’ve worked for many years in an environment where a significant proportion of my clients have mental health issues. The environment? Prison chaplaincy.

Most prison inmates have, or have had, some kind of mental illness. And in my present work area, post-release support, the trend continues.

But one of the anomalies of this work is that there has been no training for recognising, understanding, or dealing well with mental illness. This week that changed.

Mental Health First Aid is a program of education similar to medical first aid courses. Instead of teaching people how to deal with physical accidents, it aims to teach people how to recognise mental health issues, how to respond in a crisis, and who to call for follow-up treatment.

This week I spent two days learning the basics. Perhaps I should say, trying to learn the basics. The course was packed with information and I came away, not only with the standard book produced by the training organisation, but with more pages of additional resources than I can get through in a week.

Perhaps the most profound thing for me was learning the extent to which such things as MRI scanning have contributed to understanding what goes on in the brain, thereby enriching research into mental illness treatments. The course was filled with references to dopamine, seratonin, SSRIs and such things. But underneath it all was the passion of people who’s goal is to see the fine balance of brain function restored to those who suffer in ways we outside can’t really understand.

The people running the course are
Check them out for courses running in your area.


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