My interests often pull me in a variety of unrelated ways, most recently I was compelled to take a Mental Health First Aid course. I joined other participants in Brockville for two days of educational instruction lead by Shelley McCaffrey, who is a passionate instructor and advocate with Mental Health First Aid Canada. The diverse group included those who already work directly in the mental health field, a local firefighter, a human resources person from a local business, a pharmacist, a community volunteer, a young OPP prospect, and me. All there with different views, opinions, life experiences, yet all with the same desire to break down the stigma that surrounds mental health.
While it is common to discuss a physical injury such as a broken leg or a sudden sickness like the flu or the devastating effects of cancer or heart disease and even sensitivities to gluten, it is still not as socially acceptable to speak about depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder. As someone who has suffered from social anxiety for years and experienced panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder after a car accident, I would like to be open and share my story without fear of judgment. For every person that comes forward to tell their story and shed some light on mental health someone sitting in the shadows might gain strength in knowing they aren’t alone and seek help that they might have long been avoiding.
Starting a discussion, showing concern and yes even asking the question, if you fear someone is considering suicide might save a life. It is a sad truth, that suicide ranks the 9th highest cause of death in Canada, ahead of homicide and motor vehicle accidents. As a society, we need to change our attitudes toward mental health, after all, 1 in 5 people here in Canada are living with a mental illness (not including those who go undiagnosed because they choose not to access help).
I am proud to say that I made it a priority to take the course and that I am officially trained to provide Mental Health First Aid. I have gained a broader knowledge on the topic in general with very specific training to provide support, comfort, guidance, and a list of professional resources for those developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. I encourage you to take the time and do the same. It could be someone's son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, father, niece, nephew, wife or husband or even your own that you are helping.
For more information, or to find a course in your area check out www.mhfa.ca or www.mentalhealthcommission.ca.