EVERETT — If you want to spend a day learning how to identify the signs of someone experiencing mental health distress, and then how to support them, consider a “mental health first aid” class for adults or youth.
When Bonnie Eckley, executive director of the Camano Center, heard about the class in May she jumped at the opportunity. And she would absolutely recommend it to others.
“It has definitely changed the way I look at people and think about them. I have always been good at having an empathetic eye,” Eckley said. “But this gave me many more tools.”
At the Camano Center, Eckley works with people ages 60 and older.
“Every part of COVID hit this population hard,” with isolation, physical health decline and grief over friends and loved ones who died, she said.
The course is intended for people who work with “individuals who might have signs and symptoms of behavioral health challenges,” said Megan Boyle, director of children’s intensive services at Compass Health.
The one-day class, with two hours of independent preparation work, costs $25. The Daily Herald interviewed four recent trainees, who praised the instructors and the manual they took home with information, statistics, action plans and local resources.
The action plan for trainees, known as ALGEE, follows these five steps:
• Assess for risk of suicide or harm;
• Listen non-judgmentally;
• Give reassurance and information;
• Encourage appropriate professional help;
• Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
Andrew Brokaw, program manager at the Edmonds food bank, said he took the training to help with de-escalation tactics among food bank clients. He learned about the 988 crisis line and also put together a crisis management plan for all staff. He said social service organizations in Edmonds do not want to call police when unhoused people are involved, out of fear that they could be charged with a misdemeanor or sent up to 35 miles away for a shelter bed.
“This is a good alternative to having to call the police in crisis situations,” Brokaw said.
Boyle said in the end, one organization or profession cannot be solely responsible for supporting folks with behavioral health needs. And some people might not need professional help, whereas others do need crisis care. But the average person can be there to support anyone in the process.
“It’s really a community task for us to support members of our family or neighbors, people that we encounter who are struggling,” Boyle said. “And often people might feel more comfortable sharing their own challenges with someone that is in their family or their community versus a professional.”
Anyone can sign up, as can organizations that would like to host their own training. Visit compasshealth.org/mentalhealthfirstaid
People in crisis and those supporting them can call or text 988, the suicide and crisis lifeline.