Crisis Center to offer Mental Health First Aid training

October 22, 2015

(Source: WCYB; Watch video) BRISTOL, Va. — Each year, more than one in five Americans experience mental illness or substance use disorders, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health.

Advocates in our region are working to train people in the community to provide emergency help in mental illness situations.

Common emergency response tactics include first aid and CPR now, there's something known as Mental Health First Aid. Bristol Crisis Center Executive Director Stephanie Poe is a certified trainer.

"If you know that their typical behavior has changed, you have that training that you know how to approach them. You know how to identify that things are a little different," Poe said.

She told us the program would help people experiencing mental health crises including depression or anxiety, as well as substance abuse issues.

She explained the method. "You get them to a safe place. You get the situation stabilized, and you get them to resources that they need."

Congress is considering a bill to provide funding for Mental Health First Aid training programs for communities across the country.

Poe said this is significant for our area because we have a lack of mental health providers here. "We'll have a lot more eyes out there to recognize these problems and be able to intervene and help people," Poe said.

As the bill reads, police officers would be included in the training. Bristol Police Captain Maynard Ratcliff says right now his officers receive some mental health training, but it is not extensive. "If we can learn what to do and what not to do, it's not always going to be concrete, but it could be a big help to us," Captain Ratcliff said.

The training could also be geared toward school staff and veterans organizations, but anyone in the community can take part.

"If someone genuinely demonstrates that they care about what you're going through and they want to help you is huge," Poe said.

Poe told us the Bristol Crisis Center will be offering Mental Health First Aid Training in the future for those in the community. She said there' no restrictions on who can sign up for the training.