Program offers mental health first aid

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - When we think about first aid, we think bandaids, gauze, and stitches. But there is also a first aid for mental health. The Adams County YWCA welcomed community members to hear how they can help the kids in their lives with the Mental Health First Aid program.

The Adams County YWCA offered the Mental Health First Aid program to help youth leaders learn how to address mental illness in kids. (KSNB)

“What we know when we apply early intervention and we can get that person help, a lot of times that can prevent it from escalating or we can prevent it from going into some kind of an illness and a mental health diagnosis,” Certified Instructor Michelle Kohmetscher said.

Many times mental health isn't talked about for children. But the CDC said over 10% of children in the U.S. deal with anxiety or depression. Teachers, health officials, coaches, and youth leaders came to the meeting to see how to best reach out to kids they think may be struggling.

“One of the big things we have talked about is just how we communicate about mental health and the verbiage that we use is very important because the slightest thing, the inflection of our voice, or the words we use can have a certain connotation in terms of approaching those very sensitive topic,” Alex Stogdill, Program Assistant for the South Heartland District Health Department said.

The SHDHD did a survey of the counties they serve and mental health came to the forefront.

“The community basically determined that mental health was one of our top five health priorities in our area,” Stogdill said.

Mental health first aid provides an action plan to get help. It also covers how mental health affects people differently and how to find the signs. Now even smaller communities are getting on board.

“There is a push to get people educated, to go out and teach what is this thing called mental health first aid because we know it can make a huge impact and really reduce that stigma for the future,” Kohmetscher said.

Mental health first aid is a program that originated in Australia and now has 15,000 instructors in the U.S.