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Mental Health First Aid USA Comes to the District of Columbia

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The groundbreaking education program helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.

The District of Columbia Department of Mental Health and the District of Columbia State Mental Health Planning Council are launching the Mental Health First Aid Program in the District. The first orientation session will be at 9 am, May 23, 2011, at 777 North Capital Street NE, Suite 300, the Board Room of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The program is free and open to the public.

Mental Health First Aid is the help given to a person developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis until appropriate professional treatment is received or the crisis is resolved. Just as CPR training helps a layperson with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, the 12-hour Mental Health First Aid training course teaches a participant to recognize the signs of mental health problems or a crisis, and how to help. A mental health crisis can take many forms from a person having a panic attack or an acute stress reaction to a person who feels suicidal or is in a psychotic state.

Mental Health First Aid is intended for a wide range of audiences including friends and family of individuals with mental illness, faith communities, volunteer organizations, front line professionals (such as police officers, human resource directors and primary health care workers), or anyone interested in learning more about mental illness.

“We are very excited by the outcomes of Mental Health First Aid,” said Stephen T. Baron, Director of the Department of Mental Health. “It’s another way to increase public understanding of the impact of mental illness on individuals and families and to train non clinicians to better support people affected by mental illness.”

Studies on Mental Health First Aid show that the program saves lives, improves the mental health of the individual receiving care as well as the one administering it, expands knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, increases the services provided and reduces overall stigma by improving mental health literacy. Mental Health First Aid also helps build community resilience during a local emergency or castatrophic event.

Developed in Australia in 2001, Mental Health First Aid has been replicated in 14 countries, The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health worked with the program’s founders to bring Mental Health First Aid to this country.

The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare will conduct the community orientation sessions and the certificate program. Register for the May 23 event at or contact Dr. Juanita Reaves at [email protected] for more information.