mental health

Federal Grant Will Help Train First Responders on Mental Health First Aid

NBC Universal, Inc.

The weight of the pandemic has led to rising reports of mental health issues.

Now thousands of first responders will get training to help people experiencing those issues.

The help comes thanks to a federal grant, and the work of people at Wheeler. The health care facility is getting more than $600,000 over the next six years that they will put toward teaching first responders how to help people who may be struggling with their mental health.

"So this training really teaches people what they can do, how they can listen in a non-judgmental way, how they can give reassurance and information, how they can make sure that the individual is not at risk for suicide, and then to connect them with resources, whether they be professional, or like I said, other kinds of supports, and what they learn and the skills and the competence that they build are applicable in their life, you know, as professionals, but also with their family, friends, neighbors and other people in the community," Judith Stonger with Wheeler explained.

"We're reaching out to a number of partners, local and state police, fire departments, fire marshals, fire inspectors, various campuses around the state, and others, anyone who's in the front line, doing number agency or frontline services," she added.

Stonger said they've been doing this training for a few years now. With the pandemic, the need for mental health training has become even more crucial.

Each first responder who finishes the training will get certified in mental health first aid.

"Certainly during COVID-19, we know that there's been an elevation of things like anxiety and depression, people having thoughts of suicide and using substances," Stonger said. "We really hope that Mental Health First Aid will become as popular and as common as traditional first aid and CPR, that we really need that not just for public service and other kinds of frontline people, but really across the community."

Wheeler said she also hopes this training helps reduce stigma and eliminate discrimination against people with mental health and substance abuse disorders.