When my daughter was born I took infant CPR. A few years later, after two more children, I retook the training and also took an additional course for older children. In our bathroom we kept a book on first aid.
Though I couldn’t prepare for every calamity that might befall us, I felt I was doing my best to protect my kids should we face somethings along the lines of a choking or broken bone incident.
I did not take Mental Health First Aid.
It did not exist at the time.
Had it existed and had I known about it, I would like to say I would have included it in the list of things to have in my parental preparedness kit, however, it’s doubtful. While equipped with a good amount of mothering basics, I was less equipped with the necessary prescience and understanding for this.
CPR training? Of course! Mental health? Hmm. I already knew a little on the topic plus, we were a stable, happy family. I imagine my younger self would have felt that kind of training best for more complicated families.
I was naive.
Regular first aid courses teach the initial help to offer an injured person before professional help can be reached. Similarly, Mental Health First Aid is the initial help given to someone experiencing or developing a mental health problem before appropriate treatment and support can be gotten.
Mental Health First Aid training arrived on the scene in 2001 in Australia and came to the US in 2008. Now taught in more than twenty countries, over one million people in the US alone have been trained.
Personally, I prefer the term “Brain Health”. The word “mental” invites associations such as “crazy” loony” “whacko…” making it more difficult to evolve past archaic and erroneous beliefs.
Mental health issues are brain issues.
Mental illness affects a person’s thinking, emotional state and behavior. Indeed, what controls our thinking, our emotional state and our behaviors? Our brains do.
Also, the brains of people suffering from depression, bipolar, trauma and other issues show marked differences from brains that do not suffer from these conditions. Both genetics and environment play a role in whether a brain will be healthy or unhealthy.
There is no stigma or shame in treating a broken leg, a diseased liver or an ailing heart. The same needs to hold true for treating an unwell brain.
Given that one in four people will suffer a brain health crises at some time in their lives, many of them young people, Brain/Mental Health First Aid should be part of every parent’s “first aid” preparedness kit.
The truth is a brain illness, like any other physical illness, can and does affect all kinds of families: stable, unstable, loving, broken, affluent, poor, etc. Understanding how to recognize warning signs and how to best respond if and when it happens to a loved one can make a tremendous difference in the life of that loved one.
Filmmaker and storyteller, Kevin Hines openly shares the struggles he has had with brain illness and substance use. In his junior year of high school, Hines was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In September 2000, Hines attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He survived the 220-foot plunge and is one of only 34 Golden Gate Bridge jump survivors.