by Sheila Gardner

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April 17, 2014
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Training focuses on mental health first aid

You’re walking down the street, and you come across a person who is visibly in distress. He or she may be talking loudly to no one, or gesticulating wildly.

What do you do? Avoid eye contact, and walk away? Or feel confident you might be able to help?

That’s the kind of scenario to be addressed by the Partnership of Community Resources on April 29-30 at Mental Health First Aid Training.

Partnership prevention coordinator Linda Gilkerson and Kimberly Turner of Douglas Counseling and Supportive Services are conducting the classes.

“We spent a week in Las Vegas learning the training, and it was phenomenal,” Gilkerson said. “When it was completed, we went from two trainers in Nevada to 33.”

Gilkerson said the classes will be offered 8 a.m.-noon each day.

The fee is $25, and covers the cost of a workbook.

“It’s a very hands-on, comprehensive class,” Gilkerson said, “and involves a lot of role-play.”

Partnership staff and directors took the class in March. Gilkerson said she hopes to offer it again during the year.

“One in five people in the next year will experience some kind of mental health issues,” she said.

“If you see someone walking down the street, talking to himself, this will teach you how to respond in a safe and confident way,” Gilkerson said.

Like traditional first aid, the technique is meant to stabilize a situation until a professional is on the scene.

The course teaches risk factors and warning signs of mental illnesses, builds understanding of their impact and overviews common support systems.

Gilkerson said participants are not taught — nor expected to know — how to diagnose or to provide therapy and counseling.

Students will learn a five-step action plan that covers assessment for risk of suicide or harm, listening nonjudgmentally, giving reassurance and information, encourage appropriate professional help and encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Gilkerson said the class is open to the public.

“It’s open to anybody who deals with the public,” she said. “What I want people to get out of it is confidence and to be able to use the action plan we will teach them.”

The training is at Douglas County Social Services, 1133 Spruce St., Gardnerville. Checks should be made payable to Partnership of Community Resources.

Information: Linda Gilkerson, 782-8611.

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The Record Courier Updated Apr 17, 2014 02:42PM Published Apr 17, 2014 10:36AM Copyright 2014 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.