Mental health first aid training available Saturday

Zoë Donovan, Staff Reporter

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Eastern is offering a free mental health first aid training session this weekend for those who pre-register.

According to research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the second leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10 and 35 in 2017.

Since 2008, the National Council of Behavioral Health has been working to provide mental health first aid courses across the country to prepare individuals who want to be able to help in a mental health crisis with someone they might know.

Isaac Sandidge, the project coordinator for Mental Health First Aid Missouri, will be acting as the main facilitator for a mental health first aid certification class on Saturday at 8 a.m.

April Jackson, the director of student disability services at Eastern, will be co-facilitating the certification. 

“It’s a lot like CPR first aid, but it’s for learning how to recognize signs and symptoms of a presenting mental health or substance abuse challenge,” Sandidge said.

The certification is meant to teach people how to recognize those signs and how to be able to step in and help someone with that challenge. They also stay there until the crisis they are experiencing is over or until professional help arrives, Sandidge said.

He said the reason he considers it close to CPR is because, much like a CPR certificate, the mental health first aid class is not to create experts on mental health but to provide those that participate with the wherewithal to handle a crisis should it happen.

“In CPR, they don’t teach you how to do open heart surgery; they teach you how to do that immediate stuff until the professionals get there. Mental health first aid is designed to be the same way,” Sandidge said.

Jacquelyn Frank, a professor in the human services program, is the one who spearheaded bringing the mental health first aid project to Eastern’s campus.

Frank said she heard about the program from Sandidge, as he was a graduate student of hers in the gerontology program at Eastern.

“Once I learned about the program, I felt as though this would be something wonderful to bring to EIU,” Frank said.

There are currently 32 people signed up to participate in the class. Normally the class costs around $170 per attendee. However, Frank said she applied for and received two grants through the college, both a Redden and Winkleblack grant, which will allow all attendees to participate at no cost.

Frank said she primarily wanted to target students for this class, although she knows of a few faculty members as well as community members who will be in attendance.

“In the past few years, more of my students have voiced an interest in being able to help those around them (including classmates, friends and family members) during mental health crisis situations. The mental health first aid program just seemed to be a natural fit to address all of these issues,” Frank said.

Zoë Donovan can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].