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Monday, February 8, 2016

Mental Health First Aid

Guest blog by LMCIT Public Safety Specialist Tracy Stille

Would you be able to recognize the signs of someone having a mental or emotional crisis? Would you stop to assist this person, or would you consider behavioral health issues too personal for your intervention? What does depression or a panic attack look like? What would you say to someone who says they are thinking about suicide?

It’s somewhat easy to tell when someone is having a heart attack or is choking—and you may know CPR and the Heimlich maneuver—but can you administer first aid in a mental health crisis?

All of these are good questions when dealing with someone who is suffering a mental or emotional crisis, as one in five Americans has a mental illness—and many are reluctant to seek help, or might not know where to turn for care. As a society, we largely remain ignorant about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, and we ignore our role as responsible community members and public safety professionals to help people experiencing these illnesses.

With the goal of making mental health first aid training as familiar as CPR first aid training, half a million people across the country (including me) have taken the new training, “Mental Health First Aid.” Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour training course that teaches you how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
Tracy Stille

I completed the training and three-year certification this past October at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina. I went into the training with a general knowledge of mental health issues, but I walked away much more informed and aware of these issues that affect many people every day. One clear message that was delivered was that Mental Health First Aid helps first responders gain awareness and is a public education program that can help individuals across the community to understand mental illnesses, support timely intervention, and save lives.

Mental Health First Aid Training

In 2008, the National Council for Behavioral Health brought Mental Health First Aid to community members and business leaders, health and human services staff, police officers, first responders, corrections officers, and other public safety professionals to help them better understand mental illnesses and addictions, and provide them with effective response options to deescalate incidents without compromising safety. If you are interested in having some of your public safety officers (police and fire) attend this training—or perhaps receive training as an instructor—here is the link to their website:

If you are interested in the free training currently being offered at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, MN, contact Tiffany Utke at (612) 706-4566 or A waiting list is currently being established for the next training class, which is scheduled for February 22, 2016 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you have any questions or comments for me, please reach out to or (651) 215-4051.

                                       Remember:  Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up Next: Firefighter Retention, Recruitment and Background Checks

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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