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Mental Health First Aid's potential to save lives.

The statistics are stark and telling.

Approximately one in five adults in the U.S. -- 43.8 million, or 18.5 percent -- experience mental illness in a given year.

Only 41 percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the third leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 14 and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. More than 90 percent of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.

Each day an estimated 18 to 22 veterans die by suicide.

These are just a few of the statistics you can find on the National Alliance on Mental Illinois website. All of them point to the importance of recognizing when someone is in trouble and needs help.

That's why a nationwide effort to teach people Mental Health First Aid continues to grow. More than 1.2 million people have been trained in the United States, including 10,000 through a consortium of instructors affiliated with Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville. That milestone was passed just last week, according to a story by staff writer Marie Wilson.

"We want to teach people to be a good noticer of when someone might be displaying symptoms of any level of mental health distress," said Denise Elsbree, community liaison for Mental Health First Aid at Linden Oaks. "We're teaching people that basic set of skills on what to do to assist someone."

Schools are a good place for the training. Given all the discussion about how to keep our schools safe, having staff members trained in understanding the signs of mental health distress is an important first step. Amy Bartha, a social worker at Naperville Central High School, said that people who work with teens regularly have the opportunity to notice sudden changes in actions or troubling statements.

"When you see a change in the way a person is behaving or in their mood, it's worth asking a question," said Barth, who taught Naperville Unit District 203 staff members.

The basic principles of the training -- assess the risk, listen without judgment, give reassurance, encourage the person to seek appropriate professional help, encourage them to find support and employ self-help strategies -- "all sounds pretty simple," Shannon McCall, lead community outreach specialist with Northwestern Medicine, told Wilson. "But what the class does is provide how you specifically apply these strategies to mental health situations."

Given the statistics, almost everyone can use this training in much the same way CPR training is lifesaving in emergency situations. If you want to find an upcoming course -- and we urge you to do so -- go to

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Apr 18, 2018
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