At the conclusion of a recent suicide-prevention presentation to sixth- and seventh-graders at Carson Middle School, students were invited to turn in requests for additional help.
Hannah McDonald, who coordinated the presentation as the training specialist for Partnership Carson City, said 120 students responded.
“What this shows me is that we have kids who are struggling,” she said. “We’ve now opened up a door to allow them to talk about it. We’ve given them a safe space to talk about mental illness.”
She said it’s not just young people in the community who are struggling.
“One in five people will experience a mental crisis at one point in their lifetime,” she said. “It can range from anxiety and depression to a more serious mental health disease like schizophrenia.”
That’s why, she says, mental health first aid is important.
“People get trained in regular first aid, and they know how to use a bandage,” she said. “But more often we see people who are in mental crisis, and we walk right past because we don’t know what to do.”
Being trained in mental health first aid, McDonald said, helps her notice when someone may be in distress and understand ways to help them.
“I can recognize signs and symptoms that are not typical behavior,” she said.
McDonald teaches about nine courses in mental health first aid each year to organizations and individuals.
Participants learn to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems as well as signs of depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis and addiction disorders. Participants are given a five-step action plan to help someone in crisis and where to turn for help.
“The most important aspect is that it reduces stigma,” McDonald said. “It helps you recognize that this person is sick, and we can help them.”
The course also helps combat stereotypes.
“People get scared to help because they see sensationalized media of what mental illness is,” McDonald said. “Sensationalized media tells us these people are crazy and we have to stay away from them. We’re getting people to the point of seeing beyond the fear. This is not scary.”
To learn more or to schedule a training, visit pcccarson.org or call 775-841-4730.