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Hospital staff to undergo mental health first aid training

Staff, doctors, volunteers to take training to support the wider community, SAH spokesperson says

Just as knowing how to administer physical first aid to an individual is an important skill to have, so is the ability to administer mental health first aid.

Sault Area Hospital has seen the need for its staff to have that knowledge.

“Mental Health and Addictions now has a certified Mental Health first aid trainer and inaugural training has been provided to the MH&A patient and family advisors,” said Ila Watson, SAH president and CEO in her monthly report to the hospital board earlier this week.

“Mental Health First Aid is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem, experiencing the worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis. Just like physical first aid is provided until medical treatment can be obtained, MHFA is given until appropriate support is found or until the crisis is resolved,” the Mental Health Commission of Canada states on its website.

Current staff members at SAH will have the opportunity to take courses at part of Mental Health First Air.

“The Mental Health First Aid Trainer is not a new staff position. A current Outpatient Mental Health nursing team member has spent several months training to become a Mental Health First Aid trainer. Mental Health First Aid courses will be provided to our staff, physicians, and volunteers over the coming year,” said Brandy Sharp Young, SAH spokesperson in an email.

“The course will provide training to our workers so that they will be able to provide support to any person who may be experiencing a decline in their mental well-being or a mental health crisis. The course is being offered to support the wider community,” Sharp Young said.

“The Mental Health First Aid program is comparable to being trained in Standard First Aid. It is a course that everyone is encouraged to take similar to CPR or Standard First Aid training. The ability to offer the Mental Health First Aid course to our staff, physicians, and volunteers provides SAH with the ability to support the Mental Health Commission of Canada - Mental Health First Aid Canada with their vision of ‘Every Canadian is within reach of effective mental health first aid,’” Sharp Young said. 

The Mental Health Commission of Canada states large companies such as WestJet, Husky Energy, Hydro One and Loblaw have recognized the need for good mental health among their employees.

The commission’s training involves reducing the stigma around mental health problems, realizing one person in five will experience a mental health problem this year, increasing awareness of signs and symptoms of common mental health problems and knowing what to say when engaging with someone experiencing mental health difficulties.