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From Helpless to Helpful: The Power of Mental Health First Aid

Upon registering for the mental health first aid course, I found myself pondering its relevance, questioning the necessity of mental health first aid in light of my position as a Family Support Specialist. As I sat through the class in April 2023, listening to Curt the trainer and watching various case clips, I remained skeptical, doubting the real-world applicability of what I was learning.

However, a year later, the impact of the workshop became starkly evident when I encountered a new client—a young mother struggling with mental health issues since childhood. Using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), I assessed her and found indications of depression, prompting a referral for medical assistance. Despite my efforts, she resisted therapy, and her depression persisted, leaving me feeling helpless.

Recalling the principles from mental health first aid, particularly the understanding that I can offer support without diagnosing, I persisted in reaching out to the mom, maintaining regular communication and expressing genuine concern for her well-being and that of her baby. Eventually, my perseverance paid off, and we were able to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

During our meeting, she once again expressed suicidal thoughts, prompting immediate action. With the support of my supervisor and local authorities, we conducted a wellness check and mobilized additional resources. Through ongoing collaboration and support, we were able to convince her to engage with mobile crisis services and other support networks.

This experience transformed my perspective on mental health first aid. What I initially saw as an unnecessary course became an invaluable tool in navigating the complexities of mental health crises. It taught me the importance of empathy, persistence, and the recognition that mental health is just as vital as physical health. Ultimately, it enabled me to effectively support this struggling mom through her mental health crisis.

A Family Support Specialist 
Healthy Families Washington County
Washington County Health Department

Upcoming Mental Health First Aid trainings: