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Credit: Cindy Foster

UNM West Offering “Mental Health First Aid” Training

Research has shown 50 percent of people with treatable mental health conditions wait 10 years before seeking services, mainly because they don’t want to be judged when asking for help.

An eight-hour  Mental Health First-Aid training being offered at UNM West on July 30 aims to remove that stigma. Anyone – from first responders and police to anxious relatives and friends – can attend the free training, according to Christopher Morris, PhD, clinical psychologist and director of the new UNM Community Behavior Health Clinic opening at UNM West this fall.

 “Like knowing CPR, this provides training people can use in a crisis,” he says.

Almost one in five Americans experience mental health problems every year, but many don’t know where to turn for care, according to Morris. Unlike physical conditions, mental health and substance use problems can be difficult for others to detect, and for friends and family members, it can be hard to know when and how to step in, he says.

“The idea is we can all help each other when someone is having mental health issues,” Morris says. “We can be there to offer help by knowing how to be of assistance and in knowing how to access care.

“We know from research that the training provides people with a better understanding of mental health issues and increases their confidence that they could offer help if needed,” he adds. “Finally – and most importantly – it reduces stigma in seeking help.”

And reducing stigma is the key to encouraging people to access mental health services when needed, he says.

 “Think what would happen if someone waited that long to access care after discovering they had diabetes or heart disease – we would expect to hear they were experiencing serious complications to their health from having waited so long,” he says.

The course was originally developed in Australia, came to the U.S. in 2008 and has been adapted for use throughout the world, said Morris.

The Mental Health First Aid also has several modules available targeting special needs, such as public safety, first responders, rural mental health, seniors and youth, which may be offered in the future.

The New Mexico Department of Children, Youth and Families was an early supporter of the toolkit and more than 19,500 New Mexicans have trained with it, placing the state near the top nationally for percentage of population trained, according to Morris. 

The class will be held July 30 at the UNM West Education Building at City Center in Rio Rancho. It is free, but seating is limited to 25 people and pre-registration is required. For more information and to register, call UNM West at 994-5000.

More information on the national program, can be found at MentalHealthFirstAid.org. 

Categories: Features, Patient Care, Community, UNM Hospitals, Education, UNM Medical Group, Inc., UNM Health System

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