News Article Details

Chances for free Mental Health First Aid training fleeting in Longmont

Daily Times-Call - 8/24/2018

Aug. 24--If you're waiting to take a free mental health first aid course in Longmont, your time might be running out.

Supporting Action for Mental Health -- a collaboration of local community groups, residents and the city formed after two high-profile crimes in March 2015 -- received grant money from the Colorado Health Foundation to train residents in mental health first aid.

Now, 18 months later, the grant money is on the cusp of running out and the future of the free classes is up in the air. Without further grant money, the last free class is planned for Oct. 6., said Julie Phillips, SAM project coordinator.

The first aid courses -- with adult, youth, Spanish and older adult variants -- teach participants to recognize risk factors and warning signs for depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse and psychosis and help participants develop action plans to help someone in crisis.

Without grant funding, the average cost for the eight-hour course is $50 per person, Phillips said.

"The concern is that if folks are waiting to take the course for another time, we want them to realize that time is running out on the free courses," she said.

Wednesday, staff hit its goal of training 1,500 Longmont community members in mental health first aid, Phillips said. Because of the grant funding, staff keeps close track of numbers of participants and follow-up survey responses.

Staff surveyed people who took a mental health first aid class between six and 18 months ago. When asked how many times participants in those classes have reached out to someone who might be dealing with a mental health crisis, 48 percent of respondents said one to two times, while 23 percent said between three and five times and 13 percent said six or more times.

There are similar responses for other questions -- 47 percent of respondents said they have assisted a person who might be dealing with a mental health crisis one or two times and 48 percent said they have referred such a person to community resources one or two times.

the data is encouraging and proves that the course is teaching information and skills that are relevant to people's' lives, Phillips said.

"You know, we've heard from a Front Range Community College employee who was able to take what they learned and the next day help a student who was having an anxiety attack. There are parents who after taking the class are able to talk to their teens about issues they may be struggling with," she said.

The course involves role playing in some instances and talking frankly about mental health issues that lead to suicide.

The data show "that about 50 percent of the folks who have taken the class have asked the question to someone about whether they're considering suicide and encouraged them to talk to somebody," she said. "And to me that's important. Those are things that could be saving people's lives. It shows that folks are using these skills."

Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, antonaccik@times-call.com or twitter.com/ktonacci

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(c)2018 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.)

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