Mental Health 'First Aid' Class Offered in Marin County .

First aid

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MARIN COUNTY, CA – Mental Health Month isn't until May, but the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services works year-round to spread the word about mental-health wellness programs. While many Marin residents have taken first-aid courses to assist an injured person or administer CPR, not many have experience with mental-health first aid.

On April 1, the county will host a free, mental-health, first-aid training session intended to teach people how to provide timely assistance to those showing signs of a mental-illness crisis. The class will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Marin County Office of Education, 1111 Las Gallinas Ave., San Rafael.

"Timely intervention can save lives, but people need to recognize the signs and know the most affective steps to take right away, very similar to the way we do CPR," said Dr. Jei Africa, director of Marin's Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Division. "Like lots of other communities, Marin is highly concerned about suicide and non-fatal, but debilitating, mental-health crises that occur around us. We offer an educational knowledge base that could save lives."

Staff from the Behavior Health and Recovery Services division on April 1 will hold the all-day training on how to help adolescents, ages 12-18, who are in mental-health dilemmas.

The course introduces common, mental-health challenges for youths, reviews typical adolescent development and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations, staff said. Topics covered will include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD) and eating disorders.

Although the class is focused on how to help young people, the session is for people of all ages, including first responders, students and teachers, leaders of faith communities, service providers and any caring individuals. It is not designed for trained, mental health providers.

There also is a training May 3 regarding adults in crisis at the Marin Health and Wellness Campus, 3240 Kerner Boulevard, San Rafael.

Also, one session will be conducted in Spanish on June 1 at the North Marin Community Services, 680 Wilson Avenue, Novato.

For all the sessions, register by calling 415-473-6403 or by emailing Veronica Alcala.

In the U.S., 43.8 million adults experience mental illness and approximately one in five young people experiences symptoms of a mental health problem in a given year, county staff said. According to California Healthy Kids Survey, in 2015-2016, 26 percent of ninth graders and 30 percent of 11th graders in Marin County reported feeling chronically sad/hopeless. Fifteen percent of ninth graders and 13 percent of 11th graders said they had had contemplated suicide in the past 12 months.

Mental health, first aid teaches participants to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance-use disorders. Participants learn to reach out and provide initial support to someone and help connect them to the appropriate care.

"People are often intimidated by what they don't understand," Africa said. "Through increased mental health literacy and empathy, we can reduce that stigma and increase the likelihood of quick assistance for someone who needs it right away."

Learn more about HHS' efforts on suicide prevention and Behavioral Health and Recovery Services at www.marinhhs.org.

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