Mental Health First Aid Trainings Build a “Network of Support” in North Country

Training Gives Adults Skills, Knowledge to Help in Mental Health Crisis

mental health first aid
A screenshot from Mental Health First Aid USA's website, mentalhealthfirstaid.org.

When one thinks about first aid, they usually imagine bandages, CPR, splinting broken bones, or something of the like…But what about first aid for the mind?

Mental Health First Aid — which offers initial help to those in a mental health crisis and connects them with appropriate care — is a relatively new practice in the United States. However, it has begun to take hold here in the North Country, as a handful of community members have become certified trainers.

“The training really works to reduce stigma around mental health challenges, making it okay to talk about it,” said Anne Garno, a certified trainer of both Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid.

mental health first aid
Anne Garno, who serves as Director of Education and Enrollment at the North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council, recently became a certified Adult Mental Health First Aid trainer.

Ms. Garno, who serves as Director of Education and Enrollment at the North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council in Watertown, has been a Youth Trainer for almost a year, and she recently became an Adult Trainer in July.

“My staff and I had worked in a lot of school districts and with a lot of young people out of school, and we soon had people asking us if we were certified to train in Mental Health First Aid for adults as well,” she said.

Because of her experience as a Youth Trainer, she was able to take an expedited, 2½ day training in Manchester, New Hampshire, to gain her Adult Training certification.

Ms. Garno has not yet facilitated an Adult Training, but she said she is eager to start, confident that these trainings will be as well-received by the community as the Youth Trainings have been.

“We’ve gotten really good feedback, and people definitely recognize this as an issue and a concern,” she said.

To clarify, both Youth and Adult Trainings are geared toward adult participants — the “Youth” aspect of the training teaches adults how to help youths who are in crisis.

Both trainings teach participants a 5-step action plan (called ALGEE) to suppport someone developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis. The 5 steps are:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

“We’re not training people to diagnose, and we’re not training people how to treat,” Ms. Garno said. “We’re teaching them how you approach someone, talk to them and connect them to help.”

“I think it really gives people more confidence and it shows them how to approach someone they are concerned about,” she added.

Ms. Garno said she is proud to play a role and help “build a network” of support in the North Country.

“I really enjoy doing it,” she said. “I think it’s a great program to facilitate. Every group makes it different, because they bring their own experience and background to it. It’s great knowing there will be some more people in the community to help with this.”

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