It’s first aid, but for your mental state, and it’s coming to Chilliwack for the first time next month.
“The Mental Health First Aid – Veteran Community is just one component of the veteran family program,” explained Tracy Cromwell, executive director of the Mainland BC Military Family Resource Centre (BCMFRC), the registered charity behind the program’s administration who supports more than 1,600 military and veteran families in British Columbia, offering resources and services to help address these challenges.
“The two-day workshop is a little bit different than most people might think,” continued Cromwell. “In the same way a person may take a first aid course to learn how to deal with a sprained ankle or something like that … the course is for anyone who wants to feel more comfortable, discuss, and recognize common mental health problems.”
So while it’s not uncommon for people to learn regular first aid to prepare them for medical emergencies such as burns and breaks, the mental health first aid course takes that preparedness to the next level, providing valuable, potentially life-saving information and crisis intervention skills to manage mental health challenges.
A range of mental health issues will be covered by the course, including mood, anxiety, trauma-related, psychotic and substance use disorders. The course will also teach first aid skills for dealing with drug overdose, suicidal behaviour, panic attacks, psychosis and acute stress reaction.
So as “with other first aid courses, there’s some things about crisis first aid intervention, what can you do as a person who is confronted with this, and what can you do to help the situation until professionals arrive,” added Cromwell.
Ultimately, the course will enable participants to build the skills and confidence necessary to engage in effective conversations about mental health, help them recognize the most common mental health problems and illnesses, increase their comfort level with, and willingness to, help others, and decrease the stigma and discrimination around mental health problems and illnesses.
“Mental health issues are often met with significant stigma in the world. That’s what’s so great about Mental Health First Aid – Veteran Community: because the course is about helping others, participants don’t have to worry about standing out as having a problem if they attend. In this way, the course is truly non-threatening for those who’d like to learn more about dealing with these issues,” said Cromwell.
And as Chilliwack had a large military base in the past, many of the city’s residents are vets themselves, or family members of vets, so it makes sense to host the event here. “We want to reach out to the (people in the area) and identify some of the families we may be working with in that area (going forward),” added Cromwell.
As of April 1, the BCMFRC was granted the ability to work with medically-released veterans, whereas previously, they were restricted to active-duty personnel.
Held on Nov. 1 and 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Coast Hotel, the Mental Health First Aid – Veteran Community program is free and open to anyone, however, as space is limited, priority is given to medically released veterans and their families. To register and reserve your place in the course, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.