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PCC Offering Mental Health First Aid Course

By Rob Goldberg Jr.
PCC Media Relations Director

Students Keshia Knight (center) and Lindsay Edwards (right) participate in a class exercise in which they and their classmates were asked to arrange themselves in accordance with the World Health Organization's disability rankings, from the less severe gingivitis to severe dementia.

WINTERVILLE—The Pitt Community College Human Services Department has joined a national initiative to increase mental health literacy by offering training that helps individuals identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.

According to Dr. Ray Taylor, chair of the PCC Human Services Department, the college’s new Mental Health First Aid (Adult) training is similar to first aid and CPR courses because it teaches people how to help individuals experiencing mental health challenges or crises.

Taylor, who was certified to teach the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course in March, said he hopes the training will help “demystify mental illness” and eliminate associated stigma while moving “more and more people toward recovery.”

He said the training is open to the community and added that his department has already taught 20 students and will teach as many as 30 Human Services graduates and 30 faculty and staff at the college annually.

“We are thrilled to bring Mental Health First Aid (Adult) to our students, college and community,” Taylor said. “This important educational effort goes a lot further than emergency intervention; it really helps people understand the shroud of fear and misjudgment facing individuals and families who experience mental illnesses and addiction.”

MHFA, which was introduced to the United States in 2008 by the not-for-profit National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH), is an eight-hour training certification course that teaches participants a five-step action plan to assess a situation, select and implement interventions, and secure appropriate care for an individual. Coursework covers risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, builds understanding of their impact, and outlines common treatments.

NCBH has stated that thorough evaluations in randomized controlled trials and a quantitative study have proven MHFA effective in improving trainees’ knowledge of mental disorders, reducing stigma and increasing the amount of help provided to others. Identified on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, the CPR-like training helps the public better identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses.

“We welcome Pitt Community College’s involvement and enthusiasm in the Mental Health First Aid community,” said Linda Rosenberg, NCBH president and CEO. “We know they will have a great impact on the mental health communities throughout the Pitt County area and will be key players in improving mental health literacy nationwide.”

MHFA originated in Australia in 2001 under the direction of founders Betty Kitchener and Tony Jorm. To date, it has been replicated in 20 other countries worldwide, including Hong Kong, Scotland, England, Canada, Finland and Singapore.

In its pilot year in the United States, MHFA was introduced in nearly 20 states and more than 40 communities.

For more information regarding MHFA training at PCC, contact the Human Services Department by e-mail at rtaylor@email.pittcc.edu or telephone at (252) 493-7263, or visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org.