NMI has close to 1,000 trained mental health first aiders

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THE CNMI has almost 1,000 individuals trained as mental health first aiders who can help and interact with a person in crisis, Kimberly Mendiola, lead therapist at Systems of Care, said.

Through Systems of Care and the Garrett Lee Youth Suicide Prevention Program, the Community Guidance Center has been providing adult Mental Health First Aid or MHFA training since 2015, she added.

“Like CPR, MHFA prepares participants to interact with a person in crisis and connect the person with help,” Mendiola said.

But first aiders do not take on the role of professionals who provide counseling or therapy, she added. MHFA training “offers concrete tools and answers key questions, like ‘what do I do?’ and ‘where can someone find help?’”

Mendiola said participants learn to apply the Mental Health First Aid action plan to a variety of situations, including when someone is experiencing panic attacks, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, non-suicidal self-injury, acute psychosis such as hallucinations or delusion, overdose or withdrawal from alcohol or drug use, or reaction to a traumatic event.

In addition, the training gives participants the opportunity to practice what they have learned through role plays, scenarios, and activities.

Recently, Mendiola and Garrett Lee Youth Suicide Prevention Program prevention specialist Fred Fatialofa provided Adult Mental Health First Aid training to Northern Marianas College students.

Systems of Care and Garett Lee Youth Suicide Prevention programs conducted Mental Health First Aid training for students with the Northern Marianas College PROA project on Jan. 17, 2020.  Contributed photo

The participants learned risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies on how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help.

“MHFA teaches recovery and resiliency — the belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well,” Mendiola said.

She added that the training is open to everyone and not just to students. “The need to know how to help others is critical for any community, so training as many people as we can from all domains is our goal. We want to make Mental Health First Aid as common as CPR.”

Mendiola cited the following official statistics:

• Nearly half or 46.4 percent of the adult population in the United States will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.

• Half of mental disorders begin by age 14.

• Only 41 percent of the people who had a mental disorder in the past year received health care or other services.

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