WAMH offering Mental Health First Aid program

West Alabama Mental Health Center has piloted the first Mental Health First Aid program in the Demopolis area. The agency will train law enforcement officers and members of the general public to improve mental health literacy – helping them identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness. The first training will be held on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at the University of West Alabama Demopolis Higher Education Center from 8 am to 4 pm. The training is limited to 30 participants.

“We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid to our community,” said Patricia Moore, executive director of West Alabama Mental Health Center. “This important educational effort goes a lot further than emergency intervention; it really helps people understand the amount of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and addiction. It will help rid this community of the associated stigma and move more and more people toward recovery.”

Mental Health First Aid is an eight (8) hour training certification course which teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions and secure appropriate care for the individual, the certification program introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common treatments. Thorough evaluations in randomized controlled trials and a quantitative study have proved the CPR-like program effective in improving trainees’ knowledge of mental disorders, reducing stigma and increasing the amount of help provided to others.

“We welcome West Alabama Mental Health Center’s involvement and enthusiasm in the Mental Health First Aid community,” says Linda Rosenberg, MSW, president and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, the organization who brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States in 2008. “We know they will have a great impact on the mental health communities throughout West Alabama and will be key players in improving mental health literacy nationwide.”

In its pilot year, the program was introduced in nearly twenty states and more than 40 communities nationwide. The National Council certified West Alabama Mental Health Center to provide the Mental Health First Aid program in August, 2013 through an instructor certification course in Montgomery, AL. West Alabama Mental Health Center and all the sites across the nation that replicate this program maintain strict fidelity to the original, proven program.

Mental Health First Aid is auspiced at the ORYGEN Research Center at the University of Melbourne in Australia under the direction of MHFA founders Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm. To date, it has been replicated in six other countries worldwide, including Hong Kong, Scotland, England, Canada, Finland, and Singapore.

For more information or to participate in Mental Health First Aid training in West Alabama, visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org or call Carolyn Morrison, Special Projects Coordinator at (334) 289-2410 extension 20204.

West Alabama Mental Health Center (WAMHC) is a regional mental health center located in the Black Belt area of West Alabama serving Choctaw, Greene, Hale, Marengo, and Sumter counties. WAMHC is a comprehensive community mental health center providing services to people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities, substance abuse and children with serious emotional disorders. The prevention program helps at-risk and other students stay off drugs and in school. The agency also works with many community agencies to bridge the gap between services.