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August 26, 2006

Mental health first aid

Mental Health First Aid logo

Everyone should learn basic first aid of course. But while those classes prepare you to deal with a broken arm or someone who's choking, they teach you little or nothing when it comes to dealing with someone suffering from acute mental illness... things like bi-polar disorder, psychotic episodes, and severe suicidal depression.

An innovative Australian program called Mental Health First Aid is changing that. They've created a 12-hour course that teaches average people what to do if confronted with a wide variety of mental health conditions...

How to help a person having a panic attack

1) If you are unsure whether the person is having a panic attack, a heart attack or an asthma attack, and/or the person is in distress, call an ambulance.
2) If you know the person is having a panic attack and not a heart or asthma attack, move the person to a quiet safe place if possible.
3) Help to calm the person by encouraging slow, relaxed breathing in unison with your own. Encourage the person to breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds and then breathe out for 3 seconds (you can get them to use the second hand on a watch).
4) Be a good listener, without judging.
5) Explain to the person that they are experiencing a panic attack and not something life-threatening such as a heart attack.
6) Explain that the attack will soon stop and they will recover fully.
7) Assure the person that someone will stay with them and keep them safe until the attack stops.

This is a such a great idea on so many levels. Right now the course is offered throughout Australia, and there are plans to offer it worldwide. In the meantime, Mental Health First Aid has a pdf of their course manual, and a webpage of brief advice on what to do in a situation where someone's having mental health difficulties.

(Thanks Mind Hacks)

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at August 26, 2006 05:58 AM