By Chris Branam
The Coast to Forest Project, a partnership of Oregon State University Extension Service and the OSU Center for Health Innovation, works on mental health promotion and substance use prevention. It builds on existing state and community strengths and resources to address gaps in educational, preventative and systems-level approaches to the state’s opioid and mental health crisis.
What is mental health first-aid training?
Coast to Forest is implementing mental health first-aid training, a public education program that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental illnesses and builds understanding of their impacts.
This eight-hour course uses role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to offer initial help in a mental health crisis and connect people to the appropriate professional, peer, social and self-help care.
The mental health first-aid also teaches the common risk factors and warning signs of specific types of illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, substance use, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia.
The course provides a five-step action plan to support someone developing signs and symptoms of a mental illness or in an emotional crisis.
Implementing mental health first-aid training across Oregon
Dusti Linnell, an associate professor of practice in the OSU Extension Family and Community Health program, leads the work group that is implementing the trainings across Oregon.
As of December 2022, 409 people had attended 32 trainings across Oregon. Attendees have included Extension staff and faculty, nurses, social services professionals and public health professionals, among others. In Extension, 105 staff and faculty have participated in the training and are now prepared to respond if a client, partner, friend or neighbor is experiencing mental health challenges or is in crisis.
An analysis of the trainings indicates that participants increased their confidence in assisting a person experiencing a mental health or a challenge related to a substance abuse disorder. They reported an increased awareness of the common signs and symptoms of mental health or challenges related to substance abuse disorders.
The results of pre- and post-training surveys showed:
- 85.2% of respondents reported an increased awareness of concerning thoughts such as self-blame, racing thoughts, or strange or troubling ideas.
- 77.8% reported an increased confidence in recognizing the signs that a person may be dealing with a mental health concern or crisis.
- 77.8% reported an increased confidence in offering basic information and support about mental health concerns to a person in distress.
- 73.1% reported an increased confidence in assisting a person who might be dealing with a mental health concern or crisis to connect with community, peer and personal supports.
An analysis of the results of mental health stigma questions found that 40% of respondents reported a decreased stigma regarding their willingness to accept someone who has received mental health treatment as a close friend.
About one-quarter of the respondents reported a decreased stigma regarding thinking less of a person who has received mental health treatment.
A version of this story was originally published by The Statewides.