Faculty, Staff and Students Learn to Recognize Signs of Distress

May 20, 2015 -- More than 200 CNM faculty, staff and students can better recognize and help people showing signs of mental health distress thanks to a Mental Health First Aid class taught by CNM Dean of Students Dr. Rudy Garcia and Jim Johnson, psychology professor in the School of Communication, Humanities & Social Sciences.
July 16, 2015

Both took a 40-hour certification training course in Mental Health and are now training CNM faculty and staff in the program’s techniques that just might save someone’s life.

As part of the eight-hour course, attendees learn methods that help them better understand how they can assess a situation, identify signs and symptoms of mental illness, select and implement appropriate interventions and actually provide assistance to a person in the early stages of a mental health crisis or an individual already under mental duress.

Offered in two four-hour sessions, students learn basic information about a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, depression, psychosis, substance abuse disorders, as well as an action plan to use when they encounter a family member, friend, colleague or fellow student experiencing a mental health crisis. Upon completion of the course and successful passing of an examination, students receive a certificate in Mental Health Frist Aid valid for three years.

“These workshops have been extremely well received by participants, and it is truly gratifying to see the interest they have generated in trying to better understand illnesses that can, and do affect each one of us,” Johnson said. “More people will be called upon to interact with a person experiencing a mental illness than a major physical illness. The more people we can train in Mental Health First Aid the more we can reduce the stigma of mental illness. And it is well known that if mental illness is addressed in its’ early stages, the probability of recovery is higher and the disruption to lives, relationships and education will be minimized.”

Garcia noted that the mental health first aid classes are “much like traditional first aid classes where people learn how to stop bleeding or help a choking victim. The only difference is that this program focuses on mental health.”

Garcia and Johnson started teaching the class at CNM in the spring of 2013 after they completed a 40-hour certification training in Mental Health First Aid by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. Each is now certified through a series of three different training sessions totaling 56 hours and have broadened the scope of their training to include Mental Health First Aid for veterans and their families, as well as for law enforcement and public safety personnel.

The MHFA course was developed in Australia in 2001 and has spread to many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand, Cambodia, China and more. Over 350,000 people have been train in Mental Health First Aid.