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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Texas Health Resources Offers Mental Health First Aid Training To Help Assist People Facing Crisis

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A note to readers: this story mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Most people know about CPR and a number of people are even trained in it, so they can act as a first responder in the event of a health emergency.

But what about a mental health emergency?

Just like CPR teaches someone how to help a person having a heart attack, mental health first aid can help someone experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis.

As part of the ongoing Blue Zones Project in Fort Worth, the nonprofit outreach arm of Texas Health Resources is offering a course on mental health first aid.

“I think probably a lot of people have taken CPR training knowing that they may be the first one on the scene of an emergency,” said Matt Dufrene, vice president of the hospital system. “Well, the same is true for all of us regarding mental health. At any point in time, any of us may be the first person to respond to a mental health crisis.”

Dufrene said the daylong training is meant to give people practical skills, but also an awareness of what to look for regarding mental health.

“So it's assessing for risk of suicide or harm, listening, non-judgmentally giving reassurance and information, encouraging appropriate professional help and encouraging self-help and other support strategies,” he said. “So at its core people come in, they learn to identify and then are provided with resources to be able to help someone in a mental health crisis.”

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, peer reviewed studies show that individuals trained in the program can identify the signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illness and addictions and readily identify professional and self-help resources.

The studies showed that people who are trained in mental health first aid are also more confident in their ability to help someone in mental distress, and showed increased mental wellness themselves.

The training effort in Fort Worth is part of the ongoing Blue Zones Project — an initiative to improve the social, emotional and physical wellbeing of people throughout Fort Worth, mainly through the places that they spend the majority of their time.

“At the core, it's how do we make healthier choices, easier for everyone?” Dufrene said. “We do that by implementing best practices, which truly are focused on how we change the physical environment in a way that it makes healthy choices easier for all of us to make.”

The next mental health first aid training session will be held virtually on Thursday, June 17th starting at 10 a.m. The registration deadline is Monday, June 7th.

If you need help, free and confidential support is available by calling the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255. There are also services available locally through the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas.

Got a tip? Email Rebekah Morr at rmorr@kera.org. You can follow her on Twitter @bekah_morr.

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