I am in the process of marketing and preparing to facilitate a twelve hour seminar called “Mental Health First Aid.” MHFA is a curriculum sponsored by the National Council for Community Mental Health in Washington D.C. The program originated in Australia and is now being taught all over the world. It is designed to teach the general public how to identify and respond to a developing mental health crisis or issue and to help individuals get the professional help they might need. It also strives to de-stigmatize mental illness. The curriculum is being taught to teachers, parents, pastors, policeman, students and the public at large with the hope that the program will eventually become as common as CPR and First Aid. The aim of the program is to save and improve the quality of people’s lives.
Now I’m a therapist so presenting on issues of psychosis, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and eating disorders is not anything new. But what makes this program unique for me is that it is for the general public. I am not teaching clinicians perse and that takes it out of the realm of the institution of psychiatric care and into the realm where mental illness lives – in our communities amongst our family and friends. I know this world very well having had a mother complete suicide and a father destroy his law career with drug abuse.
Moving towards presenting this workshop has been an interesting emotional process for me. It falls in the month of Mother’s day and right after the anniversary of my dad’s death. I also have a story about my mom’s death being published soon in a book called “Think Outside the Cell.” (Mental illness resulted in my mom being incarcerated – thus the connection to material centering on inmate’s experiences and those of their families).
To get the workshop off the ground has required phone calls and emails, equipment checks and food orders. A press release and photo copying. At a time when I’m overloaded with work and school. The process has reminded me of the planning for my mom’s memorial service. When I got the call from the police and suddenly found myself flying solo dealing with death arrangements. I had to talk to the mortuary, ID the body and sign death certificates. Talk to the church and arrange a memorial service. Call relatives, pick songs, draft programs, coordinate family members’ flight itineraries and order flowers. Yes, friends helped me enormously. But it was my gig. I put on a party for my mom. To honor my mom.
And Mental Health First Aid is my gig. It is one way to honor my mom. It is a way to go public. And a way to educate the public and to save lives. Before there needs to be a memorial service for someone else’s mom.
*If interested in attending, post to the blog and your email address will come to me.