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Mental Health First Aid Continues to Rise in Popularity

More than 57.7 million Americans are reported to suffer from some sort of mental health issue. The type and severity can vary greatly across the board, and includes such disorders as anxiety, bipolar, autism, depression, and obsessive compulsive. While there is still a slight stigma associated with mental illness in this country, more and more focus is being put on how to treat people effectively and without shame. Along with this come has come a new program, focusing on mental health first aid.

The first mental health first aid program began in Australia and has spread to other countries including the United States. The intention is to train first responders and other citizens how to recognize the symptoms and signs of a mental health issue and how to respond appropriately. Betty Kitchener, one of the first developers of the program believes that this is key to helping so many sufferers around the world. "The aim is to increase mental health literacy of members of the community including reducing stigmatization of the illness and people learning simple first aid skills to be able to see mental illness as like any other illness," she explains.

Glenn Scott, a first responder who received the training, began using it almost immediately once certified. He said that the education put things into perspective, especially on a topic that he previously did not know much about. "I was really impressed that I was able to put my training into practice and actually see it work,” Scott said. “It's really taught me how to speak to people who are vulnerable.”

One mental health first aid trainee, Chris Morgan, decided to join because of his own personal struggle with mental illness. After a serious bout of depression, he sought counseling and has been able to maintain his emotions since. Now as a trainer himself, he is proud to teach others how to help people who were once like him. "I think one particularly rewarding thing is seeing people realize that everybody has mental health in the same way that everybody has physical health and we should look after our own mental health," he says.

Now that there are more trainees of mental health first aid, it is hoped that more and more people will want to learn too. As the number of people being diagnosed with any type of mental disorder continues to rise, it is more important than ever that we are able to recognize anything out of the ordinary, and perhaps save a life.

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