Mental health “first aid” training session drawing locals

By Jim McCabe on July 8 at 1:02pm

Passavant Area Hospital is participating in a week-long training session later this summer focusing on mental health.

The Mental Health First Aid program is used nationally to teach people how to spot signs of mental illness that’s being sponsored locally by Memorial Health Systems. It’s extending training opportunities to people in Jacksonville thanks to its partnership with Passavant.

Community Benefit Coordinator at Passavant, Wendy Smith, says four of the 30 participants in the training session are from Morgan County, including the supervisor of the new behavioral health unit at the hospital.

She says mental health was established as a priority for the counties covered by all for Memorial Health affiliates in Jacksonville, Taylorville, Lincoln and Springfield.

“The Mental Health First Aid program, it’s been endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the National Registry of Evidence-Based Practices. So, it’s a well-respected training that seeks to teach first responders to help people who are experiencing mental health crisis and how to refer them for help,” Smith says.

“Just like CPR would teach you how to assist someone who is having a heart attack until professional help arrived, Mental Health First Aid wants to help people be able to identify mental health issues and respond to them.”

Smith says the goal is for the people who attend the training can then teach the curriculum to others.

“As awareness increases and the stigma hopefully decreases, we honestly will probably see an increase in the rate of depression that we see, just because it’s being diagnosed more often. We would expect to see those numbers that we use to base our last community health needs assessment on, we would actually expect this to increase,” she says.

“Our most recent data gives us a picture of depression within the Medicare population only. For Morgan County, 19.1 percent of the Medicare population is clinically depressed or seeking treatment.”

The training session will be held in August.

You can listen to the full interview with Smith by clicking below.