Mental Health First Aid aimed at preventing tragedies

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- First aid training was held in four Kansas City metro counties on Thursday, but you couldn't find any bandages or tourniquets at this training.

It was Mental Health First Aid and more than 250 people took part. They learned the symptoms of mental illness and how to respond.

"If there's anything I can do to be more aware, to be smarter, to be kinder, to say something more constructive, I certainly want to do that," said Judy Wright, a participant.

Mental disorders affect one in four Americans.

"I think it's very prevalent but people have not talked about it," said Jaime Guillen, a participant.

People have started talking since the American tragedies of recent years -- mass killings from Tucson to Sandy Hook that were perpetrated by people who were mentally ill. But the vast majority with mental illness are more likely to be victims. Trainees learn how they can possibly prevent tragedies. They learn how to assess people for risk of suicide or harm.

"Call a crisis line, call a suicide hotline, those are your options in an immediate crisis," said Mark Wiebe of the Metropolitan Council of Community Mental Health Centers.

Participants learn to listen non-judgmentally.

"I think you heard someone say -- don't tell someone who's depressed to just snap out of it. What you want to do is just hear 'em," said Wiebe.

Giving reassurance. Encouraging them to get professional help.

Missouri now has more people trained in Mental Health First Aid than any other state except California.

"We have more folks in the field that can help somebody and that's the bottom line," said Jermine Alberty of the Missouri Institute for Mental Health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Fifteen thousand Missourians and 6,000 Kansans have received the training. The Metropolitan Council of Community Mental Health Centers plans to have another training day later this year. If you'd like to attend, go to www.mhfakc.org or call 913-328-4633.

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