Mental health

World Mental Health Day – First Aid

The theme for today, World Mental Health Day is, psychological and mental health first aid so I thought I’d do a short blog on this topic.

Everyone is aware of, and many people even attend compulsory training in, physical first aid. We all know what to do if someone has a nose bleed or faints, but what if someone presents as confused, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, having a panic attack or in emotional crisis? Why do we never talk about this?

Psychological first aid is needed in the aftermath of a traumatic or critical event and can be vital for alleviating longer term conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Mental health first aid may be needed for someone who has a mental health condition (either pre-existing or undiagnosed) if they experience a crisis.

Yes, there is extensive training for both types but no training is needed to provide the basic human contact that would provide some relief in each situation. Here are some of the things anyone can provide in a variety of situations:

  1. Meeting practical needs – this could mean ensuring someone is drinking enough water but could involve ensuring someone’s bills are paid or their pet is fed.
  2. A listening ear – this does not mean pressurising someone to talk but if they need to or want to, just listen, without judging, jumping to conclusions or providing solutions too quickly. Ask them what you can do to help.
  3. Ensuring a calm environment – a trauma or crisis situation is likely to involve heightened emotions, these are valid and it’s important not to shut them away or put a lid on them but providing a calm environment will enable the individual to feel calmer in order to express their emotions rationally
  4. Connecting with others – the person may need to contact next of kin or someone they trust or who knows/understands the situation. It is also likely professionals will need to be involved at some point.
  5. Protection from physical harm – when mentally unwell someone may behave in uncharacteristic ways. They may need someone to stay with them. Do not be afraid to call the police or for an ambulance if you are unsure.
  6. What next? – ensure you and the person in need knows that plan even just in the short term.

Always remember to look after yourself in these situations. Just like if you’ve performed basic life support on someone, it can be quite shocking, managing a mental health crisis can be difficult – make sure you talk about it and get the support you need too.

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