Check Your Health: Mental health first aid

By Leslie Tillotson, KUTV2

May 26, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY -- Knowing CPR or the Heimlich maneuver may save a life, but what if you come in contact with someone suffering a mental or emotional crisis? Would you know what to do? Fortunately, Optum and The Speedy Foundation have teamed up to provide free mental health first aid training.

"It basically provides people with the questions, the signs, what to start talking about when somebody starts with depression," said Katie Flood with The Speedy Foundation.

At the class we visited, LDS service missionaries were guided through what to do if someone experiences a mental health crisis. Mental health first aid starts by having an action plan.

  • First - Assess the individual. Is the person at risk of harming themselves or someone else?
  • Second - Listen non-judgmentally.
  • Third - Give reassurance.
  • Fourth - Encourage them to seek professional help.
  • Fifth - Let them know you'll be supportive of them getting help.

Major life changes such as a breakup, loss of job, or the death of a loved one can trigger situational depression. Those are times someone might be having some difficulty. So check-in, be straightforward, and if they're struggling, ask tough questions.

"Don't be afraid to ask the real question that you want to know. 'Are you thinking about killing yourself?'" emphasizes Flood.

The class hopes to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and aims to get more people access to mental health resources.

"This really helps to empower them, to have some information, some knowledge, some skills to know how to have these conversations and to know what resources are available in our community and how to access them," says Julie Hardle, manager of recovery and resilience at Optum Salt Lake County.

If you or someone you know needs help right away, call the 24-hour crisis line (801) 587-3000.

If you would like to set up or attend a mental health first aid class, contact Julie Hardle (801) 982-3217.

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