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home : community : e-community February 23, 2019

2/10/2019 4:52:00 PM
Mental Health First Aid
Dr. Tim Beam & Jordan Frye with ALGEE, the Mental Health First Aid koala
Dr. Tim Beam & Jordan Frye with ALGEE, the Mental Health First Aid koala

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

Saturday (Feb.9th) Atrium Health sponsored a Mental Health First Aid training session at the Lincoln County Dept. of Social Services. The same course was also offered at other locations across the country.

Those taking the class on Saturday at DSS included foster parents, Social Services workers, and teachers. Jordan Frye, Senior Community Engagement Associate at Atrium Health and Dr. Tim Beam,Director of Federal Programs, Student Services, and Pre-School for the Lincoln County Schools were the instructors for the program.

Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge. The training helps you identify, understand and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses.

Most of us would know how to help if we saw someone having a heart attack—we’d start CPR, or at the very least, call 9-1-1. But too few of us would know how to respond if we saw someone having a panic attack or if we were concerned that a friend or co-worker might be showing signs of alcoholism.

Mental Health First Aid takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder.

Those taking the course are reminded that Mental Health First Aid does not make them 'fixers,' able to deal with the problems that they have correctly identified as likely. What is does is prepare them for helping direct those who need help to appropriate sources for help.

The most important question you may ever ask

One of the subjects covered by the course is suicide. Suicide currently ranks as the #2 cause of death of persons ages 15-24. Those attending the course were asked to put the Suicide Hotline number in their phones--"because you never know when you might need it!"

"If you encounter someone who appears to be considering suicide," the class was told, "don't hesitate to ask the question, 'are you thinking about killing yourself?'" Followup questions were also a part of the training.

Frye told about a friend and co-worker who was shopping at Walmart with her daughter when the seven-year-old child noticed that the cashier had injuries on her arm consistent with 'cutting' (a form of self-injury-- usually to the arms and legs--in response to emotional pain). The mother asked the cashier if she was O-K. After a second request (she didn't respond to the first), she broke down and revealed that she was not, adding that she was so distraught that she was considering suicide. Help was summoned, a 9-1-1 call was made, and the cashier is still alive and doing much better. Frye said her co-worker still checks on the young woman on a regular basis.

Those taking the class watched a video of Kevin Hines, who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge in a suicide attempt in September 2000 and survived. Hines said if his father had asked him, he would have told him what he was planning; if someone on the bus he took to the bridge had asked him if he was O-K, he'd have told them. Since nobody asked the question, he got off the bus and jumped off the bridge.

Beam said that the Mental Health First Aid class is now mandatory training for teachers and others in the Lincoln County Schools, many of whom have already undergone the training. Frye said Lincoln County Schools are ahead of most of the other schools in the state in offering the course.

[Lincoln Herald comment:  Thank you to Atrium Health for bringing this very important and perhaps life-saving class to the group on Saturday.  This reporter may never have the opportunity to use the knowledge gained, but since I have previously editorialized that mental health is the real problem that quite often manifests itself by varied symptoms--from substance abuse to suicide among others, I believe that providing this training is extremely beneficial.  I don't work with children or teens (the main focus of the class) but the parents, foster parents, teachers and social workers who were there do--and having this training will make them better able to help avoid crisis situations or to deal with them if they occur.  Atrium Health did most of the training for the Lincoln County Schools to this point, but they now have staff who are able to help with that function.  Jordan Frye and Dr. Tim Beam were excellent instructors; they exhibited more than knowledge--they showed they really care.]

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