Mental health first aid pitch for Maple Ridge staff

One staffer can take instructor's course, to train others, if council agrees

  • Sep. 23, 2016 1:00 p.m.
Commission offers mental health first aid.

Commission offers mental health first aid.

Maple Ridge wants to offer first aid to people facing mental health issues.

Maple Ridge council heard at its workshop Monday about a program that will train staff in the basics of offering such care.

“It’s the same as first aid,” recreation manager Tony Cotroneo told council.

“Sometimes, you just need a Band-Aid on something to get to the next step.”

The program is offered by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. If council approves it, a city employee can take the instructor’s course, at a cost of about $3,000, at the end of October.

That person, in turn, can train service providers, counsellors or caregivers in Maple Ridge in delivering mental health first aid. If a partnership is worked out with the school district, teachers can also take the course. Currently, there is a course trainer in Coquiltam and Abbotsford, but not in Maple Ridge.

“This is a brand new program,” said Coun. Kirsten Duncan, who is on the strong kids team. “It gives … our coaches and teachers and service the tools to actually recognize when somebody is in a mental health crisis.

“It’s a phenomenal course and I think we’re real leaders for taking this on.”

The idea for mental health first aid came from the strong kids team that looked at youth issues. It was one of four groups formed under the homelessness task force, which is now called the Maple Ridge Resilience Initiative.

Groups that have taken the course elsewhere include teachers and counsellors, health workers, emergency responders such as police or fire, frontline workers who deal with the public, along with human resource personnel.

According to the commission’s website, MHFA Basic teaches participants to recognize the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and to refer people to get help. The course does not train people to be therapists, counsellors, or mental health professionals.

The philosophy behind mental health first aid is “that mental health crisis, such as suicidal and self-harming actions, may be avoided through early intervention. If a crisis does arise, then members of the public can take action that may reduce the harm that could result,” says the commission.


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