The aim of this year’s World Mental Health Day is for everyone to be able to provide aid to those who may be in psychological and mental distress in the same way as they may be able to help someone who physically needs aid.
Why is mental first aid so important?
Mental health issues are on the rise.
1 in 4 adults will experience a mental health problem
20% of adolescents may develop a mental health disorder in any given year
10% of children aged 5-16 have a diagnosable mental health condition
Statistics increasingly show that the prevalence of anxiety and depression, along with other mental health problems, is markedly higher now. And it is an unfortunate fact that crises, both on a global and personal level, are all too common. There are still big gaps in awareness around symptoms of mental health problems and their treatment. Stigma attached to mental health disorders remains a problem, meaning people are less likely to seek the help they need. Being aware of the need for psychological first aid can help us all to be equipped and able to help. When it comes to our close friends and family, we may be in the best position to help as we know them best and can detect any sign early that they may not be coping.
How can you help?
The mental health first aider’s role is to support a person and guide them to seek appropriate professional help if needed. The World Federation of Mental Health summarises the key elements of psychological first aid into the Mental Health First Aid Action Plan:
- Approach, assess and assist with any crisis
- Listen non-judgementally
- Give support and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage other supports
Being aware of changes in a person’s mood or behaviour may give you a hint that someone is struggling mentally. Give them an opportunity to talk to you and show them you’re really interested. Listen carefully without trying to fix their problems or telling them to ‘Just cheer up’. Ask them if they feel they need additional support to help manage their feelings, and if they do, going to see their GP is a good place to start. The GP will be able to recommend a range of treatments if needed, from medication to evidence-based talking treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
World Mental Health Day 2016 is promoting first aid for people undergoing mental health crises. If everyone learns a few basic skills to help those around them, together we might be able to manage problems and prevent a crisis.