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Advancing understanding and building a supportive community with Mental Health First Aid
Advancing understanding and building a supportive community with Mental Health First Aid

You never know when you might encounter someone developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. You may pass someone on the street who looks in distress, or perhaps it’s a colleague at work who hasn’t quite been themselves lately. Either way, would you know what to do? 

Thousands of people across the country know how to provide first aid to someone with a physical injury, but fewer people are able to recognize the signs of someone needing mental health first aid. Thanks to a program by Mental Health First Aid Canada, that’s changing. 

A program of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, mental health first aid is help for a person experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. Just like physical first aid, the goal is to offer a person immediate assistance until they can receive appropriate professional treatment, or the crisis is over. 

With one-time funding from the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (NSM LHIN) Care Connections, Waypoint sent three staff to become trainers for this new program in 2015. Since then, nearly 200 people from Waypoint and our not-for-profit community partners have completed the training, gaining invaluable skills.

Brenda Biggs is the Health and Safety Administrator at the Township of Tiny and
Brenda Biggs and Carrie-Ann Robillard, Tiny Township
Brenda Biggs and Carrie-Ann Robillard
Tiny Township
recently completed the two-day course. “I’m in the process of implementing the Mental Health Standards for the Township and I felt this course would give me a better understanding of mental illness as well as teach me how to maintain mental wellness in the workplace.”

She adds “The course was very informative and the group projects and interaction made the information easy to understand. I feel better prepared to handle situations and I also feel that I am viewing situations and individuals differently than I did before because of my newfound understanding of the illnesses. I am not afraid to help if I am needed.”

The 12-hour course, geared toward non-clinical staff and the community at large, provides general information about what is meant by mental health problems and illnesses, how to identify signs of mental health problems in yourself and others, effective interventions and treatments, and how to support an individual and help them find out about and access the professional help they may need. It also dispels common myths surrounding mental health problems and reduces the stigma around mental illness. 

“The course doesn’t train people to diagnose mental illness or be a therapist or counselor,” says Susan Lalonde-Rankin, Mental Health and Addictions Systems Coordinator and Mental Health First Aid Trainer. “It’s designed to help build confidence that one can be helpful when encountering someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. We know the sooner a person with a mental health problem gets help, the better their chances of recovery.” 

Waypoint is able to continuing offering this program thanks in part to fundraising dollars. We’d like to thank all of our donors for believing in our efforts to advance understanding of mental illness and build supportive communities for people faced with mental health problems.

If you would like more information about the mental health first aid program including how you can attend the training, please contact Susan Lalonde Rankin at [email protected] or 705.549.3181, ext. 2873.