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First aid training for mental health can help first responders

Aug 05 2014

One in four adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 25 percent of adults with mental illness believe people are caring and sympathetic toward those with a mental condition. These findings reveal a simple truth – we don’t always know how to help (or recognize) someone suffering from mental illness.

That’s why Aetna is working with the National Council for Behavioral Health to promote Mental Health First Aid. This program teaches the public how to identify the warning signs of mental illness, substance abuse and addiction. Participants learn how to help people in crisis and non-crisis situations linked to these mental health issues:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders

“Professional help is not always on hand when someone has a mental health problem or crisis,” said Louise Murphy, Aetna’s vice president of Behavioral Health. “Mental Health First Aid skills can help people respond to a mental health or substance abuse issue immediately, much like CPR.”

Aetna and the Aetna Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to the National Council for Behavioral Health to fund Mental Health First Aid training for 200 rural law enforcement personnel across the U.S. Police officers are often the only resource for mental health support in rural areas. And they are typically the first responders in crisis situations.

According to Murphy, “Introducing this program in rural areas will improve people’s access to mental health resources and connect them to the care they need.”

Nearly 300 Aetna employees have also completed the program which focuses on teaching people how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders.  With this training, they are equipped to serve as mental health advocates in the workplace and in their own communities.

“Mental Health First Aid is another way we’re working to enhance the overall well-being of our communities and our country,” Murphy said.