Skip to content or main menu

Being Prepared - Mental Health First Aid Training

December 5, 2016

One in five Canadians will experience some problem with their mental health in the course of a year. One in three Canadians will have a mental health problem at some point in their life.

St. Albert’s population is roughly 65,000, that means about 13,000 residents could experience a mental health problem this year and about 21,600 residents in St. Albert will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. Just think about that for a second. This person could be your friend, your neighbour, your coworker, or a volunteer for your organization. How would you help them?

As mental health and mental wellness have been in the forefront of recent news, our staff completed their Mental Health First Aid Training certified by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in hopes to increase the capacity in our community, and offer help when help is needed. Thanks to the Community and Social Development Department of the City of St. Albert, we completed our training in a two-day session.

We asked Glennis Kennedy, Director of Volunteer Centre Services, and Ryan Mullan, Director of Information & Referral, to answer a few questions about the Mental Health First Aid Training:

Q: What made you decide to take Mental Health First Aid Training?
GK: We saw a need for this type of training in the Volunteer Centre as there has been an increase in the number of individuals coming to us who are living with mental health illnesses, and wanting to access our services for assistance in finding volunteer opportunities in the community. We felt that we needed some education on how best to work with these volunteers and on things we might need to be aware of. We took this training so that we may better assist them.

Q: How will this training help your day-to-day business?
RM: For myself, my comfort level for making contact with a person with a mental health problem has increased, which positively impacts my ability to assist them. I have a procedure to follow, a sense of the healthy limits, and – while it’s not my role to suggest or oversee them – trust that there are treatments in our health care system that can help. That last one is important for cultivating a sense of hope and optimism, which is an asset for those who would be helpers.

Q: What did you learn that surprised you?
GK: There were so many interesting facts and information that I left the workshop with, but I think one of the things that really stood out for me was the listening exercise where we tried to listen to someone tell us some information while another person constantly talked in our ears. It was a powerful exercise to help us realize what it might be like to try and function/listen if you had other voices or distractions happening at the same time in your head; this exercise really helped me to see what it might be like for an individual living with mental illness experiencing that and really helped me to empathize and understand.

RM: it’s not really important for a Mental Health First Aider to come to a diagnosis; as first aiders, while we are given information to help identify what might be going on, we take the first aid steps not to treat or cure, but to safely encourage the person to seek professional treatment.

Q: What are the benefits to taking this training?
GK: I believe everyone should take this training and can benefit from it. We should all have this heightened awareness of mental health and people living with mental illness, as we are all dealing with people be it either in our jobs or in our personal life, and this is very good training to be equipped with on a day-to-day basis.

RM: To train is to know, and knowing empowers our confidence as helpers. The training also reminds us that there are treatments, and there are some good chances for recovery from a mental health disorder. The person suffering today can have hope of a satisfying life. It’s also nice to know you can make a difference.