Imagine youre at the office and your co-worker gets a paper cut, a really nasty one. How long until he or she gets a bandage out of a first-aid kit and stops the bleeding? Not too long. Now image youre at the office and your co-worker is becoming more and more depressed. How long until he or she receives first aid?
One in four people in the United States is affected by mental illness in any given year. Whether it is us, our family members, neighbors or co-workers, mental illness is prevalent. Id even go so far to say that mental illness is nearly as common as a paper cut. Most of us will have the experience.
So how long do you think it takes people to get initial help for mental illness? Statistics show the average time between the onset of symptoms and engagement in treatment is 10 years. Compare that to the time it takes to treat the paper cut. It takes about a minute or two to find a small adhesive bandage and about another minute (depending on skill level) to apply the bandage.
So whats with the 10 years? I think that with the paper cut, most of us are familiar enough with first aid to effectively expedite the process for ourselves or someone who needs help. The process is pretty easy to remember: apply sticky-side down, and youre done. Historically, applying first aid for mental illness has been a far less common skill set.
The good news is that weve recently made huge gains in understanding how to assist people experiencing symptoms of mental illness. Perhaps, the most effective of these has been the emergence of Mental Health First Aid in the United States.
MHFA training provides instruction about skills to provide initial help to people experiencing mental-health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and substance-use disorders. The training is appropriate for community members; you do not need to be a trained behavioral-health professional to apply MHFA.
During the last two years, weve trained hundreds of people in the Four Corners including teachers, police officers, government officials, nonprofit employees, faith-based professionals, firefighters and folks who just wanted to learn these skills. As a certified MHFA trainer, I believe MHFA is shortening the 10-year average down to a few hours and is improving the likelihood of recovery for the people in our lives.
Were in the process of planning our MHFA training schedule for the fall and winter, so please contact me if youre interested in signing up for or hosting MHFA training for your organization or business.
I can be reached directly at (970) 335-2217 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark White is the director of quality for Axis Health System. Reach him at email@example.com or (970) 335-2217.