|Targeted News Service|
What would you do if you saw a man clutching his chest, gasping, sweating and turning pale? You'd probably think he was having a heart attack, so you'd probably help him sit, call 911, and stay with him.
If your friend slipped on a rock while hiking, slicing open an artery in her leg, what would you do? You'd grab the closest available clean cloth, apply direct pressure to her wound and get her to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
It's not as easy to see mental or emotional wounds, but the Mental Health First Aid program--run through UAA's
TTC is a
"It's really important to have people who can recognize what they're seeing and guide people to treatment early on; it's a really big deal," said
Battling stigma and misconceptions
Mental Health First Aid trainers teach how to practice and respond appropriately to mental health problems in a variety of situations, such as helping someone through a panic attack, engaging with someone who may be suicidal or assisting an individual who has overdosed. Just as CPR training helps a layperson with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a layperson assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis until appropriate professional help arrives.
The TTC has trained 1,778 people over the last three years.
The media and
"There's a lot of judgment on TV, there's still a lot of stigma that's propagated by the media that's inaccurate," Ramsey said. "We have this perception that all people with mental health issues are associated with violence, that they're going to shoot up the campus. That's not true. There are some landmark studies that show clearly that mental health issues are not a precursor to violence. Now if you add in substances, you've got a different story--alcohol in particular is a precursor to violence. Our perception over time becomes, with someone who has schizophrenia, that that guy's going to kill me, that we're not safe around someone who's diagnosed."
Words and definitions hobble efforts to erase the stigma and adequately address mental health issues, Ramsey said.
"We still haven't used the proper language," she said. "We're talking about brain disorders when you're talking about something like schizophrenia. But why we can't call it a brain disorder is part of that stigma. Personally I blame Rene Descartes, the first philosopher to separate the head from the body. Then our health care system followed suit, then our insurance system followed suit, and our head's been separated all this time. Five visits to a therapist and then your problem should be done.
There are also misconceptions about what to do, Ramsey said.
"For example, one of those is, don't ask a person if they're suicidal because it might make that person suicidal. I've had people say if someone's having a panic attack, should I shake them, should I slap them, the things they've seen on television. There are a thousand myths about what people are seeing and the causes of mental health issues and whose fault it is. So we explore all of that first. We really have people think about their own perceptions and where they came from, and then we educate them."