Some days we just go about our business and take care of the duties and chores on our lists and calendars. We learn things along the way, but don’t really think about them. Then there are those days where we learn so much and just know that this information is significant to who we are and what we do. Such was the case when I attended a Youth Mental Health First Aid USA course at Great Lakes Recovery Center. It was funded through a grant from Superior Health Foundation. Philip Gardiepy from Northpointe Behavioral Health presented the training and he did a wonderful job.
The topic of mental health is in the news quite often. The lack of available services and help for those suffering with depression/thoughts of suicide, addiction and substance use, anxiety, chemical in-balances, eating disorders, etc. contributes to many other issues our society faces.
When dealing with adolescents, you must factor in the intensity of puberty, peer pressure, their home environments and traumas they may have already faced. One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14. And young people may not be aware that they need help. A better understanding of what they may be experiencing can assist the adults around them in offering them immediate help and guiding them to professional help and support.
Mental Health First Aid USA provides an action plan on how to help someone in crisis or dealing with the challenges involved in mental illness: ALGEE
- A – Assess for risk of suicide or harm
- L – Listen nonjudgmentally
- G – Give reassurance and information
- E – Encourage appropriate professional help
- E – Encourage self-help and other support strategies
This subject has had a huge impact on my life and my dealings with all people. Having grown up with a family member with severe mental illness and addiction issues, and the stigma/labels and discrimination that goes with this, it gives me hope to see more attention being paid to it. With the proper help and understanding, young people may be able to avoid the despair that leads to destructive behavior. I came up with my own action plan. These tools, too, can go a long way in improving our interactions with those that are struggling: LOOK
- L – Learn with an open mind
- O – Optimism that circumstances and feelings can change for the better
- O – Opportunity to help and be helped
- K – Kindness, which can go a long way with someone who is hurting
Stay tuned for a future blog in a few weeks on other U.P. approaches to mental health issues and our youth.