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MHFA provides toolkit for mental health

Story by Senior Airman Arielle Vasquez

50th Space Wing Public Affairs

The Airman and Family Readiness Center hosted a Mental Health First Aid class at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, April 25.

Instructors with Mental Health First Aid Colorado visited Schriever AFB for the first time to provide Airmen and their loved ones with necessary tools and knowledge to help others who may experience a mental health crisis.

“This class was tailored for military members,” said Ruth Moore, community readiness consultant with the 50th Force Support Squadron. “Honoring our active duty and veteran military service members includes making sure they have access to mental health services and support.”

According to the Archives of General Psychiatry, 46.4 percent of adults in the United States will experience mental illness during their lifetime.

“We visit all over the local community to teach this course,” said Norma Thibodeau, instructor with MHFAC. “We want to bring awareness and provide more education on mental health. There is a huge stigma associated with this, especially in military culture; we want people to know this is something we can talk about openly.”

The eight-hour class used role-playing and other activities 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. Attendees learned about common risk factors and warning signs of specific types of illnesses, including anxiety, depression, substance use, eating disorders and psychosis.

Airmen and their families also learned how to apply an action plan in a variety of situations, including when someone is experiencing panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, self-injury, reaction to a traumatic event and overdose or withdrawal from drug use.

The action plan states:
Action A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm
Action L: Listen nonjudgmentally
Action G: Give reassurance and information
Action E: Encourage appropriate professional help
Action E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies

“It is crucial to know the right thing to say and do when you notice someone is down or having a difficult time,” said Senior Airman Cherrise Streaty, satellite vehicle operator with the 4th Space Operations Squadron. “There is a lot I didn’t know about mental health prior to taking the class. This is why I want to make sure I have the right information and know the appropriate actions to take.”

Moore believes the class is beneficial for all wingmen.

“Just as CPR helps you assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid helps you assist someone experiencing a mental health or substance use related crisis,” she said. “Research has shown that this training reduces stigma, enhances behavioral health literacy and improves participants’ behavioral health.”

“This program is so important in teaching others how to provide mental health first aid and be that front line for anybody who needs help,” Thibodeau agreed. “The more people we can educate, the better our community and country will be.”

For more information about upcoming events and classes, call the A&FRC at 567-3920.

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