Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mental Health First Aid

Here we are, the first of December, and I made it through NaBloPoMo with a post every day! I didn't know what was going to happen, since I hadn't really blogged that frequently before. I feel pretty good about it. Most of my posts actually made some sort of sense, and I think I found my voice, my place in the EMS blogosphere. I'm nowhere near as good a storyteller as some out there, but that's okay. I can still tell MY story, even if it never has pink gorilla suits or camels or sad eyed little girls.

Several of my posts, and a lot of my thoughts lately, have been about how there seems to be a line out there, an "us vs. them" thing going on, where the mentally ill or otherwise mentally incapacitated are on the other side of that line, somehow. There is a "system" that once people are in it, they can't seem to get out, and it colors how they are treated from that moment on.

Since this has been on my mind, I've come across some interesting things online.

The one I found today is a site called Mental Health First Aid, and it isn't just a website. It's a 12-hour course designed to teach people how to help someone having mental health issues. I believe it is intended for the layperson, but I also think it is something most Emergency Service providers, from whatever field, could use more training on.

I don't know how good the class is, but I used their "find a class near you" feature and surprisingly, there were several listed. I may just find my way to one of them if I can swing it. The ones I saw were offered at $75, lunch included, which isn't free, but it isn't bad. They also offer training to become an instructor, so I might look into that as well.

They also have webinars, and it looks like they make recorded version of previous presentations available, for free. Look through the topics. I've glanced through a couple, and they have some decent information. Certainly better than practically no information.

Another thing I've come across recently, having to do with how people are treated when they exhibit symptoms that are not well understood, and are therefore feared, came from EMS Outside Agitator. He has a very interesting post, linking to a couple of videos, where a patient under the influence of drugs is treated with an apparent lack of understanding. One of the important things he points out is that the patient is not behaving violently UNTIL there is an attempt to restrain him.

I have long recognized that there is a general lack of understanding and information about the effects of drugs.

Way back when I was in high school, it was common knowledge that the adults could not recognize a stoned student reliably to save their lives, but all the students knew who used and who didn't. I remember one incident where this poor girl, probably the most straight-laced girl in the entire school, was literally dragged out of the ladies room, accused of smoking pot, and hauled off to the principal's office, with threats of police being called, without any evidence that any adult was listening to her AT ALL. All the kids knew it was the person in there BEFORE her, but the adults were having no part of that, sure they had caught a criminal in the act.

In my Basic class, we were told very little about real drug reactions. There was even an argument or two about the effects of some drugs because what the instructors were teaching- right out of the book- didn't match up with observations various students had made with real people. And what are they going to do in class, bring in some guy tripping his ass off, so we could watch him? I don't think so.

So I think these videos are a good educational opportunity.
I know medics who are kind of burned out on the subject, having had to deal with a few too many people under the influence to have much empathy or sympathy left, but I can't help but wonder if any of that "burned-outness" is because the general way such people are dealt with- meaning cops and often restraints- is not the best way to be trying to help these people.

I'm not saying I know what the best way is, but I've seen a few examples of what the best way ISN'T. Making the situation worse can't be the best way.

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