Okanagan College Salmon Arm Campus. (File photo)

Okanagan College Salmon Arm Campus. (File photo)

Mental health first aid course offered by CMHA at Salmon Arm Okanagan College campus

Students learn to engage with someone experiencing a mental health problem

In a first for the Shuswap, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is offering a course on mental health first aid.

The course is being offered at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus on Nov. 21 and 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Its aim is to teach people how to engage with someone with an emerging mental health problem or a mental health crisis until appropriate treatment is found or situation is resolved.

The course is geared to give people a better recognition of mental health problems and eliminate stigma around mental health.

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Shannon Hecker, manager of wellness programs and innovation for the Canadian Mental Health Authority Revelstoke-Shuswap, hopes mental health first aid will become as prevalent as physical first aid training.

“For me, I feel like at a place of work we should have both,” Hecker said. “If we have more knowledge, skills and education around what to do if someone has a life-threatening thing happen to them, we help keep them safe.”

A mental health first aider would learn how to recognize a person struggling with mental health, provide immediate life-saving care if needed and help the person connect with family, friends or mental health professionals within the community.

Hecker stresses the course will not make you counselor or therapist, but can equip you to provide enough initial care to help an individual experiencing mental health problems.

Although a mental health first aid ticket is especially valuable in mental health fields and social service work, training is starting to be recognized by other employers as well.

“Mental health struggles are showing up more and more in the workplace,” Hecker said. “From a business standpoint, it just makes sense that you have people that have the capacity to help their colleagues.”

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According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, one in five Canadians experience a mental-health problem or illness each year, meaning approximately 500,000 Canadians are unable to work every week due to mental-health problems.

For those who wish to take the course, speak with your employer first to see if they can offer any subsidy on the course cost. The CMHA and organizations like Women Who Wine have sponsored five seats, but they have already been filled. A total of eight people have signed up for the course so far but there is opportunity for partial subsidies.

The next first aid mental-health classes will be held in January and February of 2020.

If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566.