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Hello Idaho: What is Mental Health First Aid?

“Involving people from our community becomes really important.”

BOISE, Idaho — Mental Health First Aid is something people of all ages can be nationally certified for, just like CPR. 

The program is built and designed to help people identify if someone needs mental health assistance, and provides the knowledge for that person to point the person struggling to the right resources.

“Mental Health First Aid is an effort to bring some of the attributes of good mental health to the awareness of everyday citizens, and to help them understand that they can really assist someone who might have a mental health issue,” Dr. Dennis Woody of Optum Idaho said.

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One must take a virtual course to get Mental Health First Aid certified, which is usually about 20 hours of training, according to Woody, and everyone can benefit from the certification course. The program is  managed by the National Council for Behavioral Health and the Missouri Department of Mental Health. 

“The person learning the skills about how to support somebody with a mental health issue is benefitting because they are increasing their ability to make a positive impact,” the doctor said. “On the other hand, the individual who might be experiencing the mental health crisis or difficulty also benefits because there are people in the community who can actually reach out to them.”

The Mental Health First Aid course is available for both youth and adults.

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“In the course, those who are participating learn a lot about mood disorders, suicide, anxiety disorders, trauma, and even serious mental health issues, like psychotic processes,” Woody said. 

The doctor emphasized that the public’s view on mental health is changing.

“We used to think were only something that a doctor and a patient could talk about to resolve the issue, but the reality is the contribution of a community and even a society at large could really improve the viability of somebody who does struggle with chronic mental health issues,” Woody said. “Involving people from our community becomes really important.”

Virtual Mental Health First Aid courses cost $30 through Inland Northwest Health Services.

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The next sign up date is Sept. 11. Those interested in taking a virtual Mental Health First Aid course can click here.

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