Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mental Health First Aid

A personal reflection

Last week, Jessica, Brighid, and myself (the administrative staff of Erasing the Distance) attended a training to become certified in Mental Health First Aid. This training originated in Australia in 2000, and is now available in some states in the United States. The two day course went through the signs and symptoms of several mental illness, from illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia; as well as discussing behaviors such as self-injury and substance abuse.

While the training was grueling at times, I was heartened to realize how much of the information was a review for me, rather than new information. Working with Erasing the Distance has already taught me so much about mental health and mental illnesses.

At Erasing the Distance, we hold a discussion after each & every performance. We dialogue with the public, with communities, with students. We go to schools & colleges and offer trainings to staff & faculty. The topics include general education on mental illness, and how to recognize signs & symptoms. The training also helps participants to recognize what stigmas they themselves hold, what is a myth versus a fact about mental illness, and how to be of help to students.

In general, I think legitimate training that helps people to gain understanding, compassion, and tools & resources about mental illness is a valuable service. NAMI offers a free Family-to-Family course for family members of those with severe mental illnesses. And Erasing the Distance can come to your community and help to shed light on mental illness, with a performance or training, or both (or a custom project!). We also aim to connect people to helpful information & resources via this blog.

I want to close this reflection on my Mental Health First Aid Training by saying that I am very grateful for all that I have learned so far, and for the opportunities to continue to learn, to help others, and to disarm the stigma around mental illness.

So, what's next? Well, I am working on my next post, which will be an introduction to Anxiety Disorders, including signs & symptoms. Next week, Jessica will post Anxiety Disorders Part 2 which will include resources and ways find treatment or help.

Thanks for reading! I invite you to use the comments section to share other resources you have found helpful, or just to say hello.

Wishing you a healthy day,

~ Oriana


  1. Hi! :)

    I would definitely agree that legitimate training can be quite valuable. I really like that ETD offers training for faculty & staff at schools and colleges. The more prepared faculty and staff can be to properly respond to and handle things if a student discloses information indicating that they struggle with mental illness, the better.

    I'm definitely looking forward to the upcoming entries regarding Anxiety Disorders, so I'll be keeping an eye out for them! :)

    - Lis

  2. Hi Lis,

    Thanks again for your comment! I hope you found the posts on anxiety disorders interesting. I know they were challenging to write, and a lot of info to distill. We are always open to hearing suggestions! :)

    ~ Oriana