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Concord Offers Mental Health First Aid Training Course

By Daniel Smith
On November 7, 2018

Students had the opportunity to get a certificate in Mental Health First Aid Training at Concord University on Friday, Nov. 2.

Professionals from Mental Health First Aid USA gave the training. This training involves recognizing crises and helping individuals get help for their conditions. The course began at 8:30 a.m., and went until 4:30 p.m.

The course was free for students and community members seeking certification, and participants had to stay through all eight hours of the training and take a written test at the end of the class to receive the certificate, which is good for three years.

Two classes were held in the Student Center, an adult class and a young adult class. The training included topics such as the definition of mental health first aid, mental health diagnoses, stigma, risk factors, signs and symptoms, suicide, depression, anxiety and how one can intervene, care for and support someone with those conditions.

This training can be used for mental health crises and can help people with any mental condition, such as depression or anxiety. Ida Mills, associate professor of social work, says, “They are not doing counseling, they are not doing therapy, they’re not doing diagnosis. They’re just recognizing crises and helping individuals so that they can get through to it or get referred to an agency. So basically what it’s doing is, if I have a friend and I really worried about that person, what kind of things I should look for, what kinds of things I should watch for, what kinds of things I should say and do to help them to get them additional help, should they be in crisis.”

While the term “crisis” can mean having thoughts of suicide, it can also apply to any other mental health issue. According to Mental Health First Aid USA, the program also teaches the common risk factors and warning signs of specific types of illnesses including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, schizophrenia and eating disorders.

Mental Health First Aid USA provides a five-step action plan called ALGEE, which means “Assess for risk of suicide or harm, Listen non-judgmentally, Give reassurance and information, Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage self-help and other support strategies.”

According to Mills, when she came to Concord, she wanted to see if people wanted the program taught at the university. When she decided to help get the training program started at Concord, the Concord Social Work Organization helped sponsor the training program.

This is the second year the Mental Health First Aid Training has been offered at Concord. Resident Assistants of the university even received the same training during August.

Students, faculty and staff members attended this year’s program according to Mills. There were over sixty people total enrolled in one of the two classes. According to Dianna Bailey Miller, Mental Health First Aid coordinator, there can be up to 30 people in a course.

There is also the possibility of training being offered on the Beckley campus during the spring semester.

Miller has been working as a Mental Health First Aid coordinator since September 2015. She says, “One thing we encourage people to do that they find the hardest is asking the question, if someone’s having thoughts of suicide, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?’ I think that’s the hardest thing for people to pick up on.”

She explains that during the training program, a myth/factor-fiction segment is taught to bust myths about non-suicidal behaviors. Miller says the goal of the segment is to address why people are doing behaviors such as cutting themselves, pulling their hair, or doing excessive exercise.

Miller comments, “What we’re trying to do is improve mental health literacy. So we’re trying to get them to talk about mental health, open it up, and let it be common, that way we can decrease that stigma.”

According to the Behavioral Health Barometer: West Virginia, 2015 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there were 60,000 adults 18 years or older in West Virginia per year who had serious thoughts of suicide. The percentage for West Virginia from 2013-2014 was 4.2 percent, while in 2010-2011 it was 4.1 percent. National percentage showed 3.9 for the 2013- 2014 span and 3.8 percent for 2010-2011.

The Behavioral Health Barometer also said that from 2013-2014, 79,000 adults per year reported having serious mental illness. It also says that the percentage for the state did not change significantly from 2010-2011, where the state percentage was 3.9, and the national was 5.3 percent.

More information about Mental Health First Aid USA, along with where to find a course or contact an instructor in the area, can be found on their website

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