In another effort to fight drug abuse here, a local organization will host mental health first-aid training in Greenfield next month for people likely to encounter those experiencing a mental health crisis, organizers said Monday.
Activists with REACH for Tomorrow, the nonprofit that will host the training, said the class will provide locals the expertise needed to offer immediate care for those suffering from mental health disorders or crises which can often contribute to substance abuse.
REACH is one of several local organizations that have supported initiatives and events such as Hope Over Heroin, a faith-based event held here last year that was designed to bring together treatment resources for those in urgent need of help with opiate addiction.
The event drew more than 1,000 people from around the area.
REACH CEO Heather Gibson, who also serves as president of a local drug abuse prevention coalition, said substance abuse and mental health disorders often go hand in hand.
“Many people self-medicate due to an underlying mental health issue that they have not received treatment for,” she said. “We must, as a society, put more emphasis on mental health care.”
Kelly Mettler, advocacy director for REACH, told The Times-Gazette another goal of the training is to increase participants’ empathy for people experiencing mental illness or crises.
“A lot of it is based on empathy, and staying with someone while they’re going through a mental health crisis, talking with them, basically just listening,” she said.
According to a press release from REACH, one in five adults in America will experience during any given year a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or psychosis.
Mettler said mental health is equally as important as physical health, and should be treated in the same way.
“When someone’s having a heart attack, we run to their aid,” Mettler said, “but if they’re having a mental health crisis, we turn away.”
Law enforcement and social service providers who work with populations at risk for mental health disorders are encouraged to attend the training, Mettler said, as well as anyone who often comes into contact with people who suffer from mental health disorders.
The training, which is funded by a grant from Interact for Health and certified by the National Council for Behavioral Health, is listed on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, according to the press release.
Mettler, who has been certified to teach the class, said the training will provide basic education on mental health disorders and include a formula for mental health first aid.
“We’ll talk about depression, anxiety and psychosis,” Mettler said. “There’s a lot on suicide and the difference between suicide and self-injury.”
Participants will also hear plenty about addiction, its connection to mental health, and the stigmas surrounding it, Mettler said.
“One of the sections in the training talks about addiction and how a lot of times we want to basically victim-blame people,” she said. “We have to be really careful about that… The goal is to say, ‘What can I do to get this person help?’ rather than blame them for the circumstances they’re in.”
Mettler said the underlying causes of addiction are related to mental health more often than not.
“Maybe psychosis played a role, maybe a past trauma, maybe they’re self-medicating,” she said. But whatever the cause, “we need to have empathy, because people are people.”
Mettler said to her knowledge this is the first class of its kind to be taught in Highland County.
“We’re hoping to have a good turnout,” she said.
“I hope people will take advantage of the opportunity for this training,” Gibson said.
The training will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 3 at the REACH Training Center, 138 S. Washington St., Greenfield.
The class costs $25, and will include a light breakfast beforehand. Those who finish the class will be certified in mental health first aid. A mental health guidebook will also be given to those who participate.
To register for the class, visit reachfortomorrowohio.org.
For more information on mental health first aid, visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.