Mental health first aid training offered

Mental health and the lack of resources, particularly in rural areas, is a hot-button issue these days when conversations around reducing gun or gang violence take place. Having the ability and knowledge to help someone through a mental health crisis can literally be a lifesaver.

Mental Health First Aid is a training course designed to give members of the public key skills to help someone experiencing a mental health emergency.

Just as CPR training helps a layperson with no clinical experience assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid helps a layperson assist someone experiencing an emotional crisis, such as contemplating suicide. In both situations, the goal is to help support an individual until appropriate professional help arrives.

On June 19, the Mental Health First Aid program will be offered in Underwood, Wash., at the Underwood Community Center, and on June 20 the same training will be held in Goldendale, Wash., at Klickitat Valley Health. The training lasts eight hours and trainees become certified at the end of the program.

The Skamania Klickitat Community Network is sponsoring the program, with partial funding provided through a grant from United Way. Skamania County General Services and Klickitat Valley Health are also providing support.

Jim Pinnell, with Central Washington Comprehensive Mental Health, will lead the class. Clock hours are available through ESD 112.

The cost is $50 per participant, which includes training manuals, morning coffee and lunch. Both programs begin at 8 a.m. and finish at 4:30 p.m.

Mental Health First Aiders learn a single five-step strategy that includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis and identifying professional help and other resources. Participants are also introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health or substance use problems, engage in experiential activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families, and learn about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.

Trainees are taught how to apply the five-step strategy in a variety of situations, such as helping someone through a panic or anxiety attack, engaging with someone who may be suicidal or assisting an individual who has overdosed.

The evidence behind the program demonstrates that it does build mental health awareness, helping the public identify, understand and respond effectively to signs of mental illness.

Mental Health First Aid targets a wide audience; individuals who might benefit from the training include first responders, teachers and other school employees, clergy, social service workers and health professionals. MHFA training is meant for the general public as well, and does not require any background knowledge about mental health or counseling.

To register, contact Johanna Roe with the Skamania Klickitat Community Network at or call 866-631-1997. The registration fee must be paid on the day of the training by check made out to Skamania Klickitat Community Network.

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