A Mental Health Trainer Shares His Experience
Durham County has invested in training for staff to learn how to identify and help people with mental health issues. These individuals will share their new knowledge with other County employees through training sessions, which will start this fall. Jim Harris, with the Department of Public Health, recently shared about his experience. These responses have been edited for brevity. What training did you recently attend, and what was its purpose? I attended the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training in August to become a certified trainer through Mental Health First Aid – USA. The purpose is to train others in the MHFA model so that they may be able to offer help to a person experiencing a mental health issue or crisis. Similar to CPR, the first aid is given until appropriate treatment and support arrives. What are the key things you learned at the training? Participants learned how to recognize symptoms of mental health problems, how to assess and approach an individual, how to provide initial help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate treatment and support. What was the biggest surprise / epiphany from your training? There is still a stigma associated with mental health problems, and what stood out to me was learning that the World Health Organization ranked mental disorders as the biggest health problem in North America, ahead of cardiovascular disease and cancer. When we factor in that only 40 percent of the people who had a mental health disorder in the past year received professional help, it shows we have a long way to go in our County (and society) to help those with a diagnosable illness get the treatment they deserve. Did you learn any interesting statistics or data points from the training that will inform your work back here in Durham County? One of the statistics we addressed in the program was that 6 percent of adults suffer from a serious mental illness (let alone those experiencing mild or moderate forms), reporting an average of 88 days during the past year when they were too ill to carry out their daily activities – which includes work productivity and engaging in meaningful relationships. While my colleagues discussed helping within the communities, my group talked about the impact this may have even within our organizations. Therefore, as a County that is committed to its workforce, I think the work has to include evaluating our response to employees as well.