The Elk Valley Suicide Task Force logo.

The Elk Valley Suicide Task Force logo.

First ‘Mental Health 1st Aid Course’ to teach about mental health emergency response

The program is open to anyone in the Elk Valley and aims to reduce stigma around mental health

The Elk Valley Suicide Task Force (EVSTF) is putting on their first ‘Mental Health 1st Aid Course’ at the end of March.

The event is aimed at reducing the stigma that surrounds suicide and mental health, and will teach participants to respond to emergency mental health situations, according to Eveliene Eijsermans, executive director of the EVSTF.

The 12-hour course will be split into six-hour blocks over two days, and be offered twice, on March 26 and 27, and then again on March 28 and 29. It will be taking place at Park Place Lodge from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with a $20 cost.

Eijsermans said the course will cover four “very important areas”: substance-related disorders, mood-related disorders, anxiety and trauma-related disorders, and psychotic disorders.

Mental health first aid is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or who is in a mental health crisis.

“The first aid is given until appropriate professional treatment is received or until crisis is resolved,” Eijsermans said.

The aims of such aid are fourfold: to preserve life where a person may be a danger to themselves or others; to provide help to prevent the mental health problem from becoming more serious; to promote the recovery of good mental health; to provide comfort to a person experiencing a mental health problem.

The course will teach people to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems, provide initial help, and guide a person towards appropriate mental health. The course does not teach people to be therapists, Eijsermans said. The instructors will be Natalie Hake and Brooke Belkin from the Canadian Mental Health Association in Cranbrook.

Eijsermans said “the mental health situation in the valley seems to be like never before.” Whether that is due to the pandemic, or the increased awareness around the topic, she said, is hard to say.

“Mental health is nothing new, however deserves the same attention, care and resources as any broken bone. The need for services seems to be increasing as people are looking for mental health support, more than before. We have an amazing network and offering of support in the valley but still are experiencing wait lists and barriers to access of services just like anywhere else.”

She said the EVSTF has been wanting to put on the workshop for a while, but waited on instructor availability and funds. They also waited for COVID restrictions to loosen up in order to maximize the number of participants.

“This event is geared towards any Elk Valley community member that would like to learn more about mental health related disorders, and feel more equipped in recognizing different disorders to be able to get the appropriate help or resource involved.”

READ MORE: Fernie’s Dragathon for suicide awareness kicks off

READ MORE: Fernie to Nelson (and then Kelowna) for mental health: Thomas Skelton gets pedalling


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