Thursday, February 1, 2018

First Aid: For The Inside

...a very primal state of comfort and being, I believe, a sense that another human being out there really cares, that someone is really there for you...

I don't know about you, but for the longest time I've trotted down to the local American Red Cross about every three years or so, poured myself a cup of Folgers into one of those small little white Styrofoam cups, added a tablespoon of Coffee Mate, and then sat myself down in the front row and watched a few of those same old, grainy videos from the 1980's which, in a rather peculiar way, I admit, I always found comforting to see over and over again.

Then getting paired off with the person sitting next to me, we'd both practice wrapping those stretchy Ace bandages around each others' simulated forearm wounds, and then immobilizing each others' arms to our chests with one of those big triangles of beige
poly/cotton rough cloth, those kind you'll remember with the edges that are forever fraying away and letting you know they've been part of this journey for probably even longer than you and those videos.

I also don't know why, but despite that bandaged arms probably make up for less than 1% of all first aid interventions, it stands out as the most memorable of the training sessions for me. There's just something memorable, I guess, about having some part of your body all wrapped up and cuddling itself.  Or maybe it was the hands-on healing nature of having someone touch you, which takes us into a very primal state of comfort and being, I believe, a sense that another human being out there really cares, that someone is really there for you... in your time of need.


Riding the train home last Friday after work, I noticed a banner ad for ThriveNYC, our new city department for mental health advocacy, outreach, and education.  That's a fancy way of saying their job is to bring mental health more fully into the light of day, helping everyone to understand just how important this is as part of our overall health - for society, for ourselves, our loved ones, friends, and also, as pertains to today's posting - our domestic staff workplaces.

But, really?  Mental illness - downstairs, you say?  What?!

Yes - we do say. The data shows that 1 in 5 people - and that's really a huge chunk of everyone walking around out there - will be professionally diagnosed with a mental issue
at some point during 2018... which means a whole lot more will not be clinically diagnosed yet will still have experienced a crisis of significance - yet won't get themselves into (or will know how to get themselves into - or will be too ashamed from the stigma) an appropriate professional local resource for help.

"Trust and relationship are key concepts here. Many individuals in distress avoid seeking help or are skeptical of those who offer assistance because of the widespread stigma of mental illness... many suffer in silence rather than risk discrimination or ridicule if they seek help."  - National Council for Behavioral Health

Thrive has created a great, short video here, which draws the comparison, and also highlights the importance of not sweeping away the concerns, just as no one would do so if they noticed another person suffering from a broken arm or physical illness.

Enter now: the Mental Health First Aid Responder, an amazing concept of both utility and compassion that has shown real, demonstrable good during it's still very new lifespan, having been created by an Australian nurse in 2001, an angel of service who understood that mental crisis, similar to any medical crisis, can be very well assisted by a first responder and - just like the American Red Cross First Aid first responder (someone who has no prior technical/educational training in health care, such as a paramedic, registered nurse, or physician), can still do a whole lot of good at the scene of the event while either waiting for professionals to arrive, or simply for the purpose of actively listening and encouraging the person to seek out professional assistance themselves.

I quickly leaned Thrive was sponsoring several free training courses from the National Council for Behavioral Health over the coming months, and lucky me was able to get into the very next training day.  And what an amazing training day it was!  For eight hours, myself and about 20 others leaned the ins and outs of first, how prevalent mental illness is within our society and communities (and workplaces) and then, second, the enormous benefit there is to have someone nearby
Role play for listening skills is an important part of the
Mental Health First Aid training course.
who can assist in a compassionate, effective manner, someone knowing how to approach the situation and then move forward with on-scene help and referral to appropriate resources - just like regular First Aid, where the first responder learns how to access the scene for safety and offering appropriate and immediate help, while also knowing what needs to be done next for the person's continued care.

Given the prevalence of mental health illness all around us, what a great resource of knowledge and education it is for a first responder program such as this.  I encourage all readers of the Citizen to visit the FAQs section of the Mental Health First Aid USA website and locate a free upcoming training program near you, so that you also will have the opportunity to become part of the solution for bringing this very important topic to light, and of having the ability to being of service in a time of crisis  -  for anyone on your team, or other workplace associates.

And just like the service of having our arms wrapped all those years at American Red Cross First Aid training, you just may have the opportunity one day to be that human being who can touch someone else's life in a memorable way, to be that someone who can really be there for them... in their time of need.

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