Philadelphians are more likely to encounter people with mental health issues than they are likely to come across someone having a heart attack.
One in four Philadelphians have some sort of mental health condition, said Brooke Feldman, community outreach coordinator with the city’s Department of Behavioral Health Intellectual disAbility Services. Among those mental health problems are depression, bipolar conditions or substance abuse.
It’s because of those statistics, which echo national numbers, that the city has been offering free mental health first aid workshops since 2012. In the Northeast, the next eight-hour session will be held at Friends Hospital on Aug. 12, Feldman said in a July 21 phone interview. The 20 or so seats in that workshop are just about filled up, she said, but added Friends hosts the mental health programs every other month. There will be another on Oct. 14.
So, the obvious question is: Why would you, or, should you, sign up for this training? Mental health first aid, Feldman said, is just as much a lifesaver as medical first aid. Workshop attendees learn how to spot the warning signs of mental health problems.
Family members are the first to see a developing illness, she said. They’re taught how to recognize the warning signs of problems.
Each workshop places a huge emphasis on recognizing the harbingers of suicide, she said.
Depression, withdrawing from favorite activities, pains not explained by a physical illness and self-isolation are a few signals, Feldman said.
“We are not aiming to diagnose or treat mental health conditions,” Feldman said, but added the workshop focuses on showing people to recognize immediate risks, how to listen nonjudgmentally, how to reassure and provide information, and how to direct people to care and to encourage them to seek professional help, and how to encourage self-help.
Feldman said the course originated in Australia and came to the United States in 2008. DBHIDS Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans started the program in Philadelphia in 2012, she said. The program is set up for the general public. Experience in dealing with mental health issues is not required. So far, more than 5,300 have been trained, Feldman said.
The Healthy Minds Philly course involves role-playing to help build an understanding of the risks, warning signs and impacts of mental health problems. Workshop attendees are shown how to assess a mental health crisis. Each course is conducted by a certified instructor. To register, visit healthymindsphilly.org/get-trained.aspx
Follow the links to sign up for training at Friends Hospital, 4641 Roosevelt Blvd.
Groups can train together, too, she said. For information, call Feldman at 215-790-4996. ••